Students open their hearts, learn value of kindness

·4 min read
Barbara Cruz's class.
Barbara Cruz's class.

What started with a children’s book that captured the hearts of a third-grade class at Katherine Finchy Elementary School quickly evolved into a World Kindness Day gesture that netted a sizable donation to a local animal shelter.

It all started after one of Barbara Cruz’ third graders, Caiden Vaughan purchased the book “Can I Be Your Dog?” from the school’s book fair to share with his class. The book, about a homeless dog named Arfy seeking a forever home touched the students so much that they talked to their teachers about what they could do to help animals in the community looking for homes and decided to start a campaign to raise funds for a donation to the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. It began with a letter home to the parents in Caiden’s class.

“We perused (the Palm Springs Animal Shelter) website and fell in love with all (of the animals in need of adoption). The kids decided we should take up a donation to help them out,” wrote Cruz to the families. “So here I am, asking for your help. Any donation, large of small, would surely be appreciated.”

Cruz added in her note to the parents that she bought a copy of bring to the animal shelter along with whatever is donated and letters and pictures from the students. The goal was $2 per student.

“Thank you so much for supporting us as we strive to be better humans who help others in need,” Cruz concluded in her note.

Cruz said she thought her class might raise $50. Turned out that was just a start.

“I have 24 students,” said Cruz. “I told them if we each bring in $2 then we would have $50 to give. After school I thought about extending the opportunity to the teachers. I sent them an email. Then I asked (Principal) Mr. Hammond if I could send a message (to all parents) via the school Class Dojo app. It was well-received. I also posted on Instagram and Facebook.”

Caiden Vaughan.
Caiden Vaughan.

By the time all was said and done (including $200 from Cruz’ family and friends who wanted to contribute), Cruz and several of her students presented the shelter with a donation of $718.89 along with a banner, cards and letters. While there, they had the opportunity to take a tour of the shelter and see some of the fur babies from the website up close and personal. And this visit on a Saturday earlier this month turned out to fall on World Kindness Day. Cruz called the timing “completely serendipitous.”

As meaningful as the donation – which will e used for medical care, vaccines, and food – was to the shelter, the lessons that Cruz’ class learned were equally as valuable. Cruz named them:

· Books can inspire us to do BIG things.

· We can do something special for those in need.

· We can do more when we work as a team.

· Helping others fills our hearts with joy.

· Donate to a cause that is important to you.

· ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

“I am beyond proud of my 24 3rd graders for their commitment to help others,” said Cruz. “They wrote letters, drew pictures and donated their own money They encouraged their parents to participate. I feel so blessed to be a part of this school community. After the toughest two years in education, I think we are all so happy to be back and have a renewed outlook on life.”

Appears her students agree.

“Our animals are important to us, and the animal shelter is doing a lot to find homes for pets,” said Caiden. “We decided to help by donating to help them buy food and other resources for the animals they care for.”

“We are grateful that the animal shelter gives the animals a home to live in until they can be adopted,” added Syris Kepner.

“I am thankful that animals get fed and can get adopted,” said Julian Lopez.

A total of seven of Cruz’ students and families were at the shelter for the presentation and tour. Cruz heard that one of the families in Ms. O’Connor’s fourth grade class adopted “Chica” while on the visit. At school a few days after the presentation (which garnered quite a bit of local media attention), Cruz has noticed she has become a bit more recognizable on campus

“Yesterday in the pick-up line, a 2nd grader that I was famous, and would I please sign his lunch box,” laughed Cruz adding that she also reached out to the author of the story who started it all. Troy Cummings responded back to her.

“Your class is wonderful, and they’ve absolutely made my day!” responded Troy Cummings. “I am honored.”

Cruz and the author are keeping in contact and trying to plan a visit to her class. In the meantime, they can look forward to more books about Arfy that are in the works.

Joan Boiko is the Coordinator of Communications & Community Outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. She may be reached at (760) 883-2701, ext. 2 or email jboiko@psusd.us.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Students open their hearts, learn value of kindness

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