LONGMEADOW, MA – Blueberry Hill Elementary School’s motto is “Kindness Counts,” so it should come as no surprise that students at the school are doing their best to help other kids in need, including their classmates.
Ella Rousou, a 9-year-old third grader at BHS, had an operation last year at Boston Children’s Hospital to treat a condition and recently went back to the hospital for some follow up procedures and testing. As Ella prepared for her appointment, she began thinking about all the other children who go to BCH to receive care from their staff.
In the spirit of the “Kindness Counts” campaign, Ella and her classmates decided to create handmade crafts (bookmarks, key chains, etc.) to sell to friends and family in order to make a monetary donation to the hospital. Recently, Ella and a few of her friends also had a lemonade stand. As a result of the craft and lemonade sales, Ella and her friends watched as their teacher, DeAnna Doucette, made a $100 donation in Ella’s honor to BCH.
“They have a craft room at the hospital, and it’s really cool,” Ella said. “They took good care of me there, and I though the craft room could use some money to buy more crafts so the kids staying there could have some fun and just be kids.”
Ella said Kindness Counts means “thinking of others and not just yourself, and thinking how others are feeling.”
“When I was sick, I was really upset,” she said. “So I know how they are feeling, and I wanted to do something to make them feel better.”
Colby Mackie, 9, said he’s also been treated at BCH and wanted to do his best to help.
“I just thought it was remarkable that she came up with the idea to help kids with problems, so I wanted to help too,” he said. “I’ve been there before, and they are just incredible.”
Suri Danishevsky, 9, said it was interesting to see the fundraiser grow from just an idea into an actual donation.
“It kind of just turned into this big, huge thing,” she said. “I think it’s really nice, and I just wanted to help make kids feel better.”
Alexis Conway, 9, said, “I wanted to help because I think it’s really nice to help kids at the hospital.”
Doucette said that every morning after the pledge, the students are reminded about the school motto “Kindness Counts.” She said that the goal of the motto is to teach kids in the school empathy and to prevent bullying.
“I think it’s important to teach as early as kindergarten,” Doucette said. “That’s our motto, and the kids have really taken that on.
“I’m just so overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness,” Doucette added. “Ella has a heart that’s bigger than her, and she is always thinking of others. I’m just really proud of the kids. They took time and did what they did to help someone else, and that makes me proud.”
Next door to Doucette’s class, students in Paula Ruyffelaert’s third grade class have also taken the “Kindness Counts” motto to heart as one of their classmates battles through some serious medical issues of her own.
Luke Dunnirvine and Jackson Dalessio are two 9 year olds in Ruyffelaert’s class who recently raised $700 for their classmate, Ushna, to help defray her medical costs. Ushna, who had been away from school so she could receive treatment in Colorado, was welcomed back to BHS with plenty of fanfare, including purple balloons and handmade signs hanging from the hallways expressing love and support.
Dunnirvine and Dalessio raised the money by holding just two lemonade stands, and while the cups of lemonade were being offered for just 50 cents apiece, once people heard why the two boys were running the stand, the donations came pouring in.
“A lot of people just donated without taking any lemonade,” Dunnirvine said, making sure to mention his mail carrier, who gave the boys $20 toward their cause. “People on the street just kept coming, and most of them were just giving donations.”
Mother Nature couldn’t even stop the two boys in their fundraising efforts, as a rainy day prompted them to switch from lemonade to hot chocolate. That day, they raised $250.
“Ushna has been traveling a lot, so we thought this was one way we could help,” Dalessio said. People like lemonade.”
Ruyffelaert said she was impressed but not surprised the two boys stepped up to help their classmate.
“I thought it was remarkable, but not surprising, that they took the initiative to help a friend, and even did it in the rain,” Ruyffelaert said. “They planned ahead, they sent out flyers that they generated themselves, and they were enthusiastic about it.”
While Ushna was in Colorado, Ruyffelaert said the class sent her letters every day and sang songs to Ushna on her mom’s voicemail so she could listen to them later. That came as a welcome gesture to Ushna and her family, who had been struggling with medical insurance issues during a time when they just wanted to focus on Ushna’s health and wellbeing.
“All of her classmates worked really hard to bolster her spirits,” Ruyffelaert said. “She’s never been far from our thoughts.”
– By Jeff Hanouille