Tragedy Turns into Thousands of Acts of Kindness
Ben’s Bells is all about kindness. Kindness is
the key to peace on Earth in our opinion. We
believe kindness is about connecting with
people,” explains Jeanette Maré, executive director of
Ben’s Bells Project.
She and her then husband Dean Packard
founded Ben’s Bells after a family tragedy. Their
son, Ben Maré Packard, was almost 3 when he
suddenly died in 2002 from croup, a common virus.
Ben’s unexpected death was really hard to take.
But the kindness and generosity that people in the
community shared with the family SUSTAINED
Jeannette, Dean and their oldest son, Matthew, who
was almost 6 when Ben passed away. Grateful, the
family founded Ben’s Bells, a fast-growing arts
movement that’s all about brightening the world
Two times a year, beautifully handmade bells are
hung all over communities for people to find and
keep. “We started working on them and hung out the
first 400 of them on the first anniversary of Ben’s
have a cord
(two fun smaller
pieces on either
end of an
a rustic bell at
the end. A note on
the bell instructs the lucky person who finds it to take
it home and hang it up as a reminder to pass along
A small army of volunteers, from kids to
grandparents, creates the bells. The volunteers create
fun ceramic shapes and fire them in a kiln to create
the “bisque” pieces that other volunteers glaze using
paintbrushes. The dull-looking glaze turns into
dazzling bright colors when the pieces are fired.
From there, all the pieces go to final assembly to
make a bell. About 10 different volunteers help to
create each bell.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, Brielle Kalish-
LeBarge and her dad, Marc, sat down in the
courtyard of Ben’s Bells to paint on the glaze. “This
is my second time,” Brielle says. “When you do
Ben’s Bells, it
makes you feel
you know that it
will go to
will appreciate it.”
creations are a
a hamster. She
hopes to convince
her friends to pitch in,
too. In fact, anyone
can show up at the
studio to help from
also are asked to “Bring a buck for Ben’s
Bells,” when they come.
Sisters Kapri and Kristian Uriarte found a
Ben’s Bell while they were out and about
with their family. “I saw a colorful thing, and
my sister and I ran up to it. My sister read it,
and our mom told us the story about it. I
was so excited because it’s rare to find,”
Their aunt, Karina Hernandez,
volunteers as part of a university program.
After finding a bell, the girls were thrilled to
lend a hand. “When I see it (our bell), it just reminds
me of happiness,” Kristian explains. “So I thought I’d
come and help make a Ben’s Bell. We’re making
many of them!”
Kapri also wants to pass along the feeling. “Other
people get to find more, and it will make them feel
happy and special like I felt, so the tradition can keep
on going. That’s what Ben’s mom wants to happen,”
Last month, 2,200 people volunteered for the
project. Young kids, high school and university
students, and adults of all ages help out. “It’s a very,
very diverse group of people,” Maré points out. Ben’s
Bells even offers a “to go box program,” which
includes all the ceramics and supplies for groups
large or small. More than 17,000 Ben’s Bells have
been hung in places like Tucson, Phoenix, New York,
Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and
Portland. Individual bells are awarded to inspiring
people each week. These “Bellees” live here in
Arizona and all over the world in places like South
Africa, Australia and Afghanistan.
For schools, Ben’s Bells offers its “Kind Kids”
program, which teaches students the importance of
kindness and gives them the tools to spread kindness
in the community. Ben’s Bells also has “Kindness
Corridor,” a program that creates kindness murals at
schools and around town.
To handle its fast growth, Ben’s Bells hopes to add
a second location and more full-time staffers, and
offer programming for kids!
Maré points out that the big picture of world peace
starts with commitment to kindness right where you
are. “In order to get peace on Earth, we have to start
with our own relationships, our own families, our own
communities and our own schools,” she points out.
Visit BensBells.org to find out what you can do.
EAGLE Elementary Plays Up Its Diversity
In August, Phoenix Magazine named EAGLE College
Prep Elementary one of the best schools in Phoenix in
2010. And while this charter school is great at getting
kids ready academically (math, science, English and
stuff), it also teaches students how to be good, caring
EAGLE stands for Expecting Academic Greatness
with a Loving Emphasis. The students (461 of ’em) come
from all corners of the world. In fact, about a quarter of the
kids speak a language other than English at home. “We
from Nepal, from
the Philippines, from
Vietnam, Nigeria, Somalia.
Over 20 different languages
in our small school alone are
spoken at home by our
students,” says Principal
“We focus a lot on
character development as
well (as academics). To us,
it goes hand-in-hand,”
Dr. Noble explains. “We
want students who are
intelligent and prepared to be good decision makers out in the world. We
want them to go to college and finish college, but we also want people
who care about other people and who take care of each other.” The
EAGLE staff teaches its students to respect others and to be responsible,
good citizens. “We want them to be not just really smart people, but really
good people, too—people with a heart,” she adds.
Having a great mix of kids helps. “We start with celebration. We start
by recognizing what is UNIQUE about each of us,” Dr. Noble explains.
EAGLE’s third grade is a good example. Each year, the third-graders
study how their families immigrated to the United States, and give
presentations and write papers about what they learned. It all leads up to
an immigration dinner, at which the students dress up in their traditional
cultural clothing and bring a traditional dish to
share. “It’s just a wonderful way for them to
see two different things, to try different foods
and kind of open that dialogue to learn about
one another,” Dr. Noble says. Guest speakers
from different cultures also help inspire
The staff also celebrates and recognizes
students who show good character. “We really
make an effort to take that positive stance as
opposed to pointing out when people aren’t
doing the right thing,” Dr. Noble says. EAGLE
students learn what bullying is, what it looks
like, and what are appropriate ways to stand
up for themselves and help others.
Dr. Noble says adults could learn a lot from
kids. “Too often, adults already have their
biases—they already have their minds made
up about other people. Kids are more
moldable. They’re able to be worked with to help them develop empathy
and compassion toward others, and to learn how to get along,” she
explains. She adds that she already sees the kids rubbing off on their
parents, which is breaking down barriers. “If adults could learn from
children, I think they could be more accepting toward each other, which in
turn creates peace.”
His Small Talk Tackles a BIG Problem!
If you keep up with the news, then you know that bullying and
cyberbullying are serious problems for kids and teens in our
Bullying used to be considered a normal part of growing up.Teachers
and developmental experts now know that bullying—whether you’re
being bullied or are doing the bullying—can have lasting, terrible effects.
The stories and images in the news are frightening. “They really hit
home, because it’s a critical part of how kids feel about themselves.
Kids who are bullied have more depression, suicidal thoughts, eating
disorders, bad grades and may end up dropping out of school,” says
Mark Trombino, a little person
who does motivational talks for
schools to help combat bullying in our state
and wherever he’s needed.
Trombino, who’s 3 feet, 3 inches tall,
grew up in the Valley. He got into acting
when he was a kid and still does commercial
and promotional work. He got his degree in
communications from the University of
Arizona. About four years ago, he started
Motivational Small Talk with his business
partner Gail Blackburn. Blackburn’s
daughter is also a little person. She
suffered bullying at her school in Gilbert.
Growing up, Trombino was bullied a bit.
“I remember a couple of times when I was
really bullied, but I was fortunate—a lot of
my little people friends were bullied a lot.”
In his talks, he uses his shortness to get kids’
attention. His delivery is dynamic and inspiring, promoting bully prevention, diversity
and tolerance. He likes to surprise his audience when he suddenly takes the stage.
“Because I’m so visually different, I really use my size to capture and to hold their
attention. I want them to open their eyes—we’re all different, and it’s important to
embrace those differences and not make fun of them. It’s a really uplifting message,”
About 30 percent of elementary school kids are involved in bullying. Trombino
adds that the statistics seem to go higher for middle and high schoolers. “Kids are
bullied every seven minutes out on the playground, but 85 percent of the time (when
it happens), nobody helps them,” he shares. “It’s discouraging. So what I try to teach
is to empower kids. They have an obligation to get involved and help that person.
They have to empower themselves to do the right thing. They can stop the bullying!”
With kids on laptops and mobile devices, cyberbullying is a growing issue.
“Cyberbullying can hurt just as much. Through Facebook and MySpace, kids can
spread rumors very quickly,” Trombino explains. “They are very text savvy, but their
mind hasn’t caught up. They don’t realize they have so much power. When I talk to
kids, I want them to realize that. It’s broadcast and can literally go to millions. And the
pictures can literally last forever.”
Trombino’s website is MotivationalSmalltalk.com. Also visit BullyPolice.org,
CDC.gov or SafeYouth.gov.
Show Boomer Bear
What Peace Looks Like!
Is peace helping your neighbors or others in need? Working together?
Celebrating our differences? Respecting and not hurting others? Use
words and/or pictures to show what peace looks like, and figure out a way
you can increase the peace!
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