By Rebecca Schmitz
Students and teachers arriving at Brownsville Elementary on October 9 were greeted by colorful, positive messages adorning the sidewalks surrounding the school’s entrance. The messages were the work of more than 50 Brownsville parents, children, and teachers who had arrived at the school at 7 a.m., chalk in hand, in hopes of adding joy and smiles to the faces of everyone who entered the building.
The event was organized by Holly Grimm, who moved to Crozet from Minnesota last year and whose son Ansel is in kindergarten at Brownsville. Grimm’s friend Nicki Brunner held the first Kindness in Chalk event in Minnesota last year to recognize October as National Bullying Awareness Month. She was inspired after witnessing the joy that her young daughter’s chalk sidewalk drawings brought to the faces of the people walking by. Realizing that even something as small as a chalk sketch on a sidewalk could have a tremendously positive effect on someone’s day, Brunner began to spread the word on her blog, and the First Kindness in Chalk event was born. Seventy-five schools participated last year, and in 2015, that number increased to more than 250 schools. Locally, Brownsville Elementary and The Covenant School in Charlottesville participated.
After moving to Crozet, Grimm was eager to bring Kindness in Chalk to Brownsville. “It’s such a simple and fast thing—but it’s so impactful,” she said, wandering among the parents and children decorating the sidewalks with images of bees (the school mascot), flowers, rainbows, suns with beaming faces, and messages such as “You are awesome,” “BEE Friendly,” and “You are a BEE and BEEs are special!”
Principal India Haun believes the event was important to Brownsville because: “Anytime a community comes together to support one another and promote positive and supportive messages like the Kindness in Chalk event, the message is motivating for all involved. The activity built a bond so that we help one another every day.”
Jennifer Davis, who was decorating the sidewalks alongside her third-grade son Jackson, said she was there “to spread the message that bullying is not OK, through words of kindness and encouragement.” Like many at the event, she marveled and the creativity and artistic talent of the Brownsville community and how enthusiastically the children had embraced the idea of spreading positive messages.
One look at the beaming faces of the teachers and students arriving at school that morning left no doubt that the event was a success. “The power an uplifting message can bring such as ‘You have super powers’ or ‘Smile, today is your day!’ are words that show everyone believes a child can do anything he or she sets their minds to,” Haun said.