Aurora theater shooting inspires local first-graders to launch Jar of Kindness project

Other kids talked about inviting lonely friends to play with them at recess and helping a kindergartener who got hurt on the playground. When they were done sharing, Anderson picked one student to receive "three compliments for a friend." The boy stood at the front of the class and chose three classmates, who offered that he was a fast runner, a good reader and a nice friend. The boy said the compliments made him happy. "Pat yourselves on the back," Anderson told the class. "You made a friend feel happy."

jar of kindness 250x222.jpg
Melanie Asmar
The Jar of Kindness.
Thus far, three Aurora theater shooting victims have visited the class to receive the warm fuzzies, including Carli Richards and her boyfriend Chris. Both were at the theater that night, and Richards was hit with shotgun pellets as they tried to flee the shooter.

Being invited to the school "was really refreshing," Richards says. "It was just an uplifting experience, especially since a lot of bad has come out of the shooting."

In addition to gifting the warm fuzzies, the first-graders in Anderson's class made cards for her and Chris. "Dear Miss Carli," one reads. "You are OK." Another says, "We are sorry that you were in the theatr. We hope that you feel better." Yet another says, "We are happy you are cameg. We are omost to the top" -- presumably of the Jar of Kindness. Even the spelling mistakes are adorable.

Richards keeps the cards, which are decorated with drawings of ice cream cones and smiling stick figures, in a box at her Aurora home. She pulled them out recently after attending a preliminary hearing for accused shooter James Holmes, which included graphic and emotional testimony. The cards made her feel better, she says.

Anderson's class started the project on the very first day of school and the teacher has been amazed at how the kids have embraced it. "The way they're able to focus on being nice helps them deal with what happened in a positive way," she says.

Peoria Elementary principal Lisa Toner agrees. When Anderson came up with the idea, "I thought it was so kind," Toner says. "And I thought it really touched on the kind of emotions and reactions and general feelings that everybody would agree we'd want to enhance in humanity, and that's taking care of others."

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting victims set up fund to raise money for Sandy Hook victims."

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