Newtown Kindness was launched in January to encourage, facilitate and recognize the value of kindness. The organization’s signature event is The Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, the first of which were presented in February in honor of one of the girls killed on 12/14. The group has remained committed to fostering kindness in children, honoring a child who was known for her own regular acts of kindness.
This summer the organization is teaching some of the area’s youngest residents that lesson through the simple gesture of giving away lemonade. It is a new twist on the traditional lemonade stand. Instead of accepting money, children are offering free advice along with each cup of lemonade they hand out. Following the Newtown Kindness motto of “Think Kindly, Act Boldly,” children are stepping up and reminding others to just be kind.
Last month Newtown Kindness gave away dozens of lemonade kits with simple instructions: make lemonade, give it away, and encourage others to do something kind. Since then, lemonade stands have been set up in Newtown and elsewhere, with children meeting neighbors, friends, and strangers with smiles and cups of the refreshing summer liquid.
Aaron Carlson, founder of Newtown Kindness, said the nonprofit organization is “encouraging ‘giftivism’ and not capitalism” with the lemonade kits. Mr Carlson and his wife Christi founded the organization as parents, and as family friends of Charlotte Bacon and her family.
“We of course asked their permission before we got into this whole organization,” Mr Carlson said of discussions with Charlotte Bacon’s parents, Joel and JoAnn, before launching Newtown Kindness. “We talked about doing an act of kindness thing, and it has blossomed. Our mission has now evolved into sharing and recognizing acts of kindness out there, big and small, and educating people on kindness.”
The lemonade kits were not fashioned after something the late 6-year-old did, but on an idea that Mr Carlson found while looking at other groups who try to foster an environment of kindness.
“We’ve been researching other organizations, and making connections with other people who live and breathe this world of kindness that we’ve jumped into,” he said. “We’ve also been inspired by others, and ideas other have, by really looking at the world a little differently.”
The Bacons liked the idea, said Mr Carlson, of the lemonade kits being created in their daughter’s name. The couple approved of what would transpire when acts of kindness were done by children.
“They really liked the idea of people not just sharing stories, but making stories happen also,” said Mr Carlson. “Even Charlotte’s brother Guy went out with his buddies and they did their own lemonade stand too. It was fantastic.”
“What happens when an adult stops and offers [kids] a dollar [for a cup of lemonade] and the kids blow them away by not accepting it and instead give them an Act of Kindness Card?!” Mr Carlson said early last month in an online post announcing the lemonade kits. “Let’s foster givers and not takers! Let’s overwhelm the world with kindness!”
Mr Carlson expanded on that thinking this week.
“When we were kids our parents said, ‘Have a lemonade stand, sell for 25 cents, learn about capitalism, the value of a dollar,’ and all those great things,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re kind of looking at it a different way: What value can you get out of it as a person, what can you learn about compassion, and just being able to help others?”
On July 3, Newtown Kindness set up a table at Sand Hill Plaza. Volunteers offered free watermelon to anyone visiting the shopping center. There were comfort dogs waiting to greet anyone who visited the group, patriotic and Newtown Kindness items given away, and even music playing in the background.
There were also Charlotte’s Lemonade Kits ready to be given to children to take home and set up in their neighborhoods. Each kit contained a jug or dispenser, one gallon of water, plastic cups, sugar and lemons or lemonade mix, and Act of Kindness cards.
Rusa Ellul of Newtown was among those who picked up a kit that hot Wednesday afternoon. She presented her first lemonade stand about ten days later.
“We had talked about Charlotte a little bit,” said Victor Ellul, Rusa’s father, “but we talked a lot of kindness and doing nice things for others.”
Rusa, 4½, was joined by two other girls from her Newtown neighborhood to present her lemonade stand (with her parents also offering assistance).
“Everyone was really happy to stop,” said Mr Ellul. “There was a very positive response. Everyone wanted to give us money, but we just gave them the cards that were part of the kits, and explained that the lemonade was free.”
The cards tell visitors that they have received “An Act of Kindness in honor of Charlotte Bacon, who passed away on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.” The papers encouraged those who received them to visit the Newtown Kindness website or Facebook page, to “find out how you can foster kindness in your area.”
“Everyone was very happy that the girls were doing that,” Mr Ellul continued. “It was a very social event. Just about everyone who stopped stayed to talk, usually about 15 minutes.”
Rusa is hoping to do a lemonade stand again this month, and at least another one in September, according to her father.
In Danielson, Drew Noble, 6, had help from his cousin Billy Kelly, 3, when he presented his first lemonade stand. The Nobles, who are longtime friends of Christi and Aaron Carlson, made the 75-minute drive from their home just to pick up lemonade kits on July 3.
“We were excited to be there, to a part of that afternoon,” said Sharon Noble, Drew’s mother.
Drew was very excited, his mother said, about setting up a lemonade stand. He couldn’t wait to see who would visit, she said, but she had to caution him about calling people customers, she added.
“The boys said they couldn’t wait to see their customers, so I reminded them that wasn’t what they were,” she said. “They were visitors.”
Once the boys began giving away their lemonade on July 17, they quickly began to understand how their gestures were affecting others.
“When Drew told people that he was giving them their lemonade, and why, everyone’s face changed,” Mrs Noble said the following day. “They were smiling, and had a different appreciation of what these kids were doing.”
At least 30 people enjoyed free lemonade that afternoon.
“I got goosebumps so many times yesterday,” she said. “It was a great, great day. It was great to see everyone appreciating what the boys were doing.”
More To Come
By now, 6-year-old Kylie Kuroghlian is becoming very familiar with passing out cups of lemonade and teaching others about kindness. On August 5 she hosted her third lemonade stand.
As swimmers arrived at Tashua Pool in Trumbull during a 90-minute window Monday afternoon, they were greeted by Kylie and her friend, 5½-year old Sophia Giacobbe. The girls had a card table set up, covered with a summery tablecloth featuring strawberries on a light blue background. A potted pink plant was on one side of the table, and a pitcher of lemonade was on the left.
Taped to the front center of the table was a colorful mixed media sign finished by Kylie just a few hours earlier. Using watercolors, gel pens, and lots of glitter, Kylie created a work of that declared Free Lemonade in large letters. Below that were the words “Newtown Kindness In Honor of Charlotte Bacon.”
As music piped from the pool’s loudspeakers, Kylie and Sophia approached people of all ages. Sometimes they were tentative about offering the white plastic cup filled with the summer drink, other times they approached more confidently.
“I want to make people happy,” she said during a quiet moment. Most of the time she and Sophia were busy passing out lemonade to anyone they met.
“Remember to tell people why you’re here,” Kylie’s mother Suzanne gently reminded the girls.
“You have to pass a kindness on. Do something nice for someone,” Kylie said, handing a cup of lemonade to a boy, one of a group of four who showed up.
Another young man in the group took a sip from his cup, smiled, and said, “It’s kinder that it’s free.”
Along with their lemonade, the girls had a big bucket of sidewalk chalk with them this week. Some of the pool’s visitors sat down on the sidewalk between the parking lot and the entrance to the pool, joining the girls to create temporary works of art.
“I like saying ‘Be kind’ and stuff, and I like being kind,” Sophia said.
Through the course of her three stands, Kylie has given out approximately 60 cups of lemonade. She has been rewarded with countless smiles, and a few new friends.
“I think it’s great, what they’re doing,” Alissa Keyes, a swim instructor and lifeguard at Tashua Pool, and a new fan of the girls and their effort, said on Monday. “You can see on their faces, they’re so open-hearted, so passionate about what they’re doing.
“Everyone is trying to heal, and it’s the simple things that are helping,” she said. “This is awesome.”
Kylie and Sophia were both wearing a lot of pink on Monday, from their pretty shirts and shorts to matching straw hats. Like the lemonade being given away, their outfits had special meaning.
“We did this because the girl in Heaven, she loves pink,” Sophia explained.
Through posts on the Newtown Kindness page on Facebook, other lemonade stands have been reported in Newtown, Sandy Hook, and Trumbull; as well as Syracuse, N.Y. (where the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile also made a stop); in Newport, R.I., on July 4, where the Carlsons’ daughter set one up for Independence Day; and even on the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Eastham, Mass., where the first customers were reportedly from Sandy Hook.
Lemonade kits will be given away again, Mr Carlson said, during an event Newtown Kindness will participate in at the end of August. Beyond that, there will be other opportunities for children to share simple acts of kindness.
“The lemonade kits took off with legs,” said Mr Carlson. “We’re going to look at other things that are simple, and we’re going to continue to do things like this. We’re looking at some other things like that, that can help facilitate more acts of kindness.
“It always come back to being a role model, and making new acts of kindness happen.”