Kindness reigns during Valentine's volunteer event in Medinah

It was an afternoon of "being friendly, generous and considerate" to celebrate Valentine's Day on Thursday at Medinah Intermediate School, as all 205 students put into practice the definition of kindness.

During the first schoolwide Afternoon of Kindness, students engaged in five projects to make "the whole world a little bit better," following the message of a line in the book "Each Kindness," which teachers read to students during an assembly before the volunteering began.

Students packed lunches for clients of the homeless services agency DuPage Pads; tied fleece blankets for Project Linus; made pet adoption bandannas for the Almost Home Foundation in Schaumburg and Animal House Shelter in Huntley; peeled small Crayons so the recycling organization SCARCE can melt them into larger Crayons for people with special needs; and painted "kindness rocks" that will be spread across the community to encourage good deeds.

Each activity was selected by students to be hands-on and meaningful.

"We want something that the kids actually make or do that goes through their hands into the hands of someone in the community," third-grade teacher Kelly Reinmann said.

The work emphasized the Medinah District 11 motto, "Medinah Chooses Kind," which already is shown prominently within the school. A poster in one hallway reads "Donut forget to be kind." Small signs on at least two doorways ask "How were you kind today?"

The Afternoon of Kindness used to be a third-grade thing, conducted only by the school's youngest students for the past two years. It replaced a Valentine's party that Reimann said could be "weird," with young crushes, and it offered instead an opportunity to do good. Seeing success in the past, this year Reinmann got the entire building involved, along with parents and community members, such as a small team of Roselle firefighters and District 11 Superintendent John Butts.

"What I like as superintendent is ... the kids were doing research and choosing the charities," Butts said. "The kids were all over it. They're passing up a party to do this."


"Just because it's really meaningful to me," fifth-grader Sydney York said.

She painted a "kindness rock" with a small rainbow on one side and the words "Love Yourself." Inside the same classroom, third-grader Jayden Macias made "be kind to each other" the message of his rock, with the quote in blue atop a background of red.

In another room, parent Aneta Wolski helped out as her son Eryk Wolski and a dozen or so others designed and created bandannas for shelter pets to wear in the promo photos that help them catch eyes online and get adopted.

"It's helping homeless dogs get families," Eryk said.

His bandanna design read "Please say yes. Adopt me," inside a border of red hearts.

"He's definitely learned the kindness message," his mother said. "They talk about it in school all the time."

Kindness to Eryk is understanding that doing one little nice thing can spread around the world.

Many of his peers on Thursday did their nice thing by preparing Friday's lunches for guests of DuPage PADS shelters. Some students even decorated the brown-paper lunch bags, writing "Enjoy!" or drawing hearts or cats on the sacks that soon would contain a ham or turkey sandwich, a mini orange, a granola bar, chips and a Rice Krispies treat.

The personalization is a plus for many who receive help from Pads, said Josie Mattern, volunteer coordinator.

"It really is another special way to connect with our clients," Mattern said.

Medinah Intermediate School Principal Natalie Czarnecki said the project didn't end when the last blanket was tied or the last lunch fully packed. The conclusion will come as students complete writing exercises to reflect on the experience of being kind.

  Sydney York, a fifth-grader at Medinah Intermediate School, said she wrote this message on a "kindness rock" she painted Thursday during the school's Afternoon of Kindness service event "just because it's really meaningful to me." Bev Horne/
  Vanessa Marquez, a fourth-grader at Medinah Intermediate School, ties the fringe of a fleece blanket Thursday to be donated to Project Linus as part of the first schoolwide Afternoon of Kindness service event. Bev Horne/
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