McHENRY – Nearly 200 Parkland Middle School students spent a few hours Tuesday doing for others in need of warmth and encouragement.
In its second year, the school’s “Random Acts of Kindness” drew 195 students and 35 staff members. The students made 379 items for local shelters and organizations – 33 more items than last year.
“We just really love helping people,” said 11-year-old Julia Zickus, a sixth-grader who helped make bird feeders. “It’s not only fun, but it’s raising the spirits of others. I would love to do this again next year. With the people you’re working with, you get into conversations with them and it’s really fun.”
Students picked the organizations they wanted to support and the activities that went with them. They created scarves and lunches for PADS, a homeless shelter program of Pioneer Center for Human Services; two bookshelves for Home of the Sparrow, an agency that provides shelter and affordable housing for homeless women and children; and fleece blankets for Project Linus, which distributes blankets to seriously ill or traumatized children.
For Helping Paws, an animal shelter, students produced 17 dog beds, 12 cat hammocks, 14 blankets and 123 toys.
Matt Borst, 12, made scarves for PADS.
“We also made some with pom poms along with the yarn,” said the seventh-grader. “We made 27 in all.”
Random Acts of Kindness helped him learn that helping people “doesn’t need to be something that takes forever to do.” “You can take a couple hours out of your day to help someone and it will help them,” he said.
Mackenzie Shutt, seventh grade math and social studies teacher, spearheaded Random Acts with the student council of Parkland, 1802 N. Ringwood Road.
“This does help build relationships between the kids and the staff members,” she said. “It’s a team-building activity for all of us. It raises morale; everybody coming together for the common good.”
Some students chose to help clean and spruce up the school, and others made crafts for nursing home residents or wrote letters to members of the military overseas. The letters will be sent to Bryan Blasy of Crystal Lake, who is serving with the Air Force in Afghanistan.
“He’s going to distribute the letters to the other service members,” said his sister, Robyn Hallstrom, a seventh grade math teacher at Parkland.
Tuesday’s after-school activity culminates the school’s holiday season of giving. Last month, Parkland collected and delivered food to FISH food pantry, sold $273 worth of candy cane grams to donate to Feed My Starving Children, and raised $2,400 in toys, gift cards and money for Toys for Tots.