Shaffer Elementary students on Friday celebrated the conclusion of a year-long educational program called Rachel's Challenge, which stresses kindness, compassion, doing good deeds and sharing abundance with those who are less fortunate.
Rachel's Challenge is also a nonprofit organization created in memory of Rachel Scott, who was the first to die in the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999.
Among Scott's inspirational writings was a quote that inspired the program: "I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, that it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness will go." Last year the children made a huge paper chain of individual links representing acts of generosity and kindness.
Part of this year's program entailed an assignment called the "Dollar Challenge," in which each student received a dollar bill and was challenged to use it to make a difference in someone's life.
"This year the focus was on learning how one smile, one handshake, one act of kindness or invitation for friendship can make a difference," said Paula Acker, a school psychologist who coordinated the Rachel's Challenge program.
At the end of winter break, the PTA contributed $613, or one dollar for each child in the school. The kids had until May 1 to see how much they could do with each dollar. One result was 300 kids who created projects that raised a total of nearly $50,000.
Kids set up lemonade stands, held bake sales and stood outside grocery stores to raise money.
One child raised money to help pay for funeral expenses for the mother of a student in another school. One girl made $500 in one bake sale, Acker said. Donations went to Tanzania, Haiti, Kenya and more than 100 different charities, especially the Denver Dumb Friends League. One lacrosse player created a charity that sent lacrosse equipment to children in Mexico.
Will Geris, a Shaffer fourth-grader who participated in a walkathon, not only logged the most steps, with 518,532, he also raised $13,874 in the event, which was sponsored by the Denver Children's Advocacy Center.
First-grader Micah Beesaw, with the assistance of his mom, Debbie Beesaw, a member of the board of directors of the DCAC, helped organized the walkathon, made banners and wrote thank-you notes. Participants received a pedometer and journal and logged every step taken during the month of April.
In recognition of Micah's effort, the event sponsor, Kiewit Infrastructure Group, is giving the school a $3,500 check that will be used to help pay for a climbing wall for the gym.
Acker says the program has helped teach the kids to share and to value the qualities of kindness and compassion.
"As a whole, we have very good kids and a very nice community," she said. "We have been given great gifts, and we need to give great gifts. … These kids have learned that the world is a big place, and it's not all about them. The kids learn from an early age that they have an obligation to share that with the world."
For more information, visit www.RachelsChallenge.org.
Contact Vicky Gits at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.