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Ben's Bells Murals Bring Kindness To Two Elementary Schools



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Kindness is spreading in Newtown's schools. During the week of May 22, school staff, Ben's Bells staff, and volunteers installed three new murals sharing the message to "be kind" in two Newtown schools.

Ben's Bells board member and Middle Gate parent Jennifer Avari said Ben's Bells installed six murals in five schools. Schools in Redding, Milford, and Ossining, N.Y., also had murals installed during the week.

Ben's Bells' mission, according to its website, is "to inspire, educate, and motivate people to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby strengthening ourselves, our relationships and our communities."

By May 26, Hawley Elementary School had a mural installed and Middle Gate Elementary School had two murals installed.

Sandy Hook Elementary School has a Ben's Bells mural, and Head O' Meadow Elementary School Principal Barbara Gasparine said her school is planning to fundraise for a mural next school year. Head O' Meadow, she added, is already a Ben's Bells' Kind Campus.

Both Middle Gate and Hawley worked toward installing the murals throughout the school year.

When Hawley students voted this past November on a new school motto, the selections were all based on the "Be Kind" Ben's Bells motto. Lead teacher Keri Snowden said at the time that the school's Safe School Climate team members were inspired by the murals to come up with the motto choices. At the time, the school was still raising funds for its mural and it was already a Ben's Bells' Kind Campus. The school eventually voted for a motto of "Be True. Be You. Be Kind."

The mural was funded in part by the school's Mary Hawley Fund and by fundraising from the Hawley Safe School Climate Team, including a fall fun run and selling T-shirts with the new school slogan on them, according to Ms Snowden.

Hawley school staff took turns on May 24 helping to grout the mural at Hawley. It was installed on a hallway wall across from the main office. As students, parents, and visitors enter the school the large green-tiled mural is visible, along with the words, "Hawley School Be Kind."

More than a month before Middle Gate's two murals were installed, students and parents worked to paint tile pieces at an April 5 PTA meeting. The school was starting its effort to make enough tiles for its two murals. One mural would be a green-tiled Ben's Bell mural like in other schools, and the other would be a custom mural that would incorporate a design inspired by the little red school house on the school's grounds, PTA President Debbie DeBlasi explained at the meeting.

The traditional flower-shaped, green-tiled Ben's Bell mural was installed outside the school's main entrance. It is visible as visitors drive up or approach the school. The custom red school house mural is on a wall inside the school, near where kindergarten students enter the building.

Standing next to the completed red school house mural on May 26, Ms Avari said when the design was first thought up she remembers Ms DeBlasi saying it reflected how Middle Gate is both kind on the inside and on the outside, since a tiny green Ben's Bell mural is placed where the door would be for the building. Both murals were funded by the Middle Gate PTA.

From left, Ben's Bells Regional Manager Cody Foss, Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, Middle Gate Elementary School Principal Christopher Geissler, PTA President Debbie DeBlasi, and Ben's Bells volunteer and board member Jennifer Avari stand next to the completed custom mural inside a hallway at Middle Gate on May 26. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Some of the volunteers who worked on May 24 to install a Ben's Bells mural outside Middle Gate paused for a picture. Standing from left are Jane Adams, Beth Krueger, Kate Callahan, Dorothy Schmidt, and Jen Sinapi. Colleen Conlin kneels in front. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Hawley Elementary School staff member Linda Arrudamastroianni assisted Ben's Bells staff member Kate Callahan as she mixed grout for the school's mural on May 24. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Hawley Elementary School's completed "be kind" mural. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
From left, Jill Baimel, Jen Sinapi, and Jane Adams work to place tiles on the outdoor "be kind" mural at Middle Gate on May 24. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
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