HENRYVILLE, Ind. — The nature of what happened was different, but the media spotlight and pain in Newtown, Conn., were all too familiar to students and teachers at Henryville Jr./Sr. High School.
But the letters of encouragement on display in their own hallways following the March 2 tornadoes that ripped through the town reminded them of the kindness shown to them from strangers in their time of need and gave them an idea how they could help others move on from their sadness.
Teachers and students worked together to commemorate lives lost in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as provide support to the families of the victims.
Jolie Lindley, the school’s yearbook adviser, said inspiration to help struck after she spent so much time watching the story unfold.
“When I was watching the news coverage, it was making me very angry and very sad,” Lindley told the News and Tribune. “So I was just trying to think about how to channel that anger into something positive.”
She said after watching Anderson Cooper on CNN talk about remembering the victims and seeing a post on Twitter from Ann Curry about performing acts of kindness in their memories, she decided to put the ideas together for something she called 26 Acts of Kindness.
She handed out sheets with 26 blank lines to fill in with good deeds done in memory of the children and adults who died starting Dec. 17. She said it was such a big hit that week, some students came back for a second sheet.
“To those whom have been given, much is expected,” Lindley said. “I think because we have been given so much, it’s important for our students to know that other people suffer, too.”
She said once students and adults at Henryville finish the sheets, she wants to send as many as she can in a binder to the school to let them know other communities are thinking about them.
But other students got involved, too. Karen Albert, a seventh-grade science teacher at the school, said some of her students got together to sell baked goods and commemorative ribbons with Sandy Hook’s school colors to raise funds for the community.
She said originally, students wanted to raise the money to help offset any costs of funerals for the people who died in the shooting. But after contacting funeral directors, they learned the funerals were free of charge to the families and instead donated the money to the Rotary Club in Newtown, who said they’d help the families with the money.
“We really worked to try and give back,” Albert said. “I think everyone’s hearts bleed for that community.”
Selling the baked goods and ribbons raised about $300.
Albert also said students decorated Christmas ornaments for the families in Newtown who lost a loved one. She said her students knew the value of reaching out to strangers who needed comfort.
“I think it helps them feel like they’re paying it forward for everything they’ve been given,” Albert said. “It’s hard to say thank you when there are so many people you don’t know giving to you, so it’s just a great way for them to give back.”