With a photo of a smiling Charlotte Bacon displayed at the front of the room and the words, “Happy birthday Charlotte, remember forever,” the first night to honor students entered into the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards tooko place Friday, February 22, at HealingNewtown Art Space.
The day would have been Charlotte’s seventh birthday, and, in honor of her, other children were recognized for their kindness.
Following the events of 12/14, Aaron Carlson, who co-founded Newtown Kindness, the group that oversees the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, with his wife Christi, thought about how they could help as family friends of Charlotte, who perished at Sandy Hook School.
According to the website, Newtownkindness.org, the group's mission is, “To encourage acts of kindness in our children, while supporting the victim's families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The contest is simple: all children write, draw, or tell your story in any way about your own act of kindness.”
By the end of January entries had been submitted for the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, and Mr Carlson reported Newtown Kindness was growing. Just a few weeks later, the event was set, and winners of the Chrlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Award were notified to attend or use Skype to connect to the roughly 100 people in attendance on Friday evening.
“We’re here to talk about our children and kindness,” said Mr Carlson, near the start of the evening.
Mr Carlson also recognized many people and organizations that have helped Newtown Kindness, and the Newtown Kindness board members who helped decide the winners of the Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness Award.
In the audience for the event, as Mr Carlson pointed out, were victims’ families, friends, and community supports.
Mr Carlson said Newtown Kindness will continue to work hard.
“We believe that kindness should be a guiding principle of humanity,” said Mr Carlson. “We believe we should be fostering a kindness mindset in our children.”
Honorary awards were given out during the night to Kaitlyn Kantor, Charlotte Kelly, Luke Cassavechia, Ava Carlson, Guy Bacon, and Mark Deloughy, before the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards winners were named.
Charlotte’s parents, Joel and JoAnn Bacon, also spoke during the evening. Her father said his family has received many acts of kindness over the last couple of months.
“This has all affected me in a profound and positive way,” said Mr Bacon. “To know that through the darkest moments of our lives, God found a way to bring us hope, to know that there is much to be joyful of in this world. With every act of kindness we receive, it’s a reminder of all that is good in this world.”
Paying acts of kindness forward, Mr Bacon said, is a way of sharing hope.
Mrs Bacon said many in attendance on Friday already knew that Charlotte was gifted, her favorite color was pink, and she loved animals. Charlotte also had the ability to live life while holding nothing back, according to her mother. She had an inquisitive mind, which sometimes lead to unexpected ends, like flooding her bathroom twice in the last six months of her life, according to Mrs Bacon.
“At such a young age, she was bold enough to question everything,” said Mrs Bacon, “identify her needs, and just go for it. If I could pick one word to describe Charlotte, it would be bold, and I could not be any prouder of my daughter.”
Mrs Bacon said she is also encouraged by the boldness displayed by each of the recipients and entrants for the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards.
“Newtown Kindness reminds us that no act of kindness is too small,” Mrs Bacon said, “and that is so true. But as we move forward, I ask you all to go bold.”
She asked all in attendance to act boldly, forgive boldly, and love boldly, “because we know that this is the only way Charlotte would have wanted it done.”
There were eight students recognized on Friday as recipients of the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards, and each received donations to a charity of their choice and an individual prize.
Sara Casey, a 6-year-old from Ohio, received a trip to Philadelphia to attend a Phillies game for her sharing a kindness speech with her class and for making a “kindness quilt” with the class, which was brought to Newtown for the Friday event.
Newtowners Natalie Horn, Lindsay Dievert, and Shannon Jackman, received a weekend trip to Seaside Heights, NJ, for creating a “Charlotte Bacon Chain of Love” campaign, which encourages spreading love.
Wisconsin student Ariana Pensy was given a dinner date with Houston Texans player J.J. Watt for helping a classmate and creating a kindness bucket with her class.
Monroe students Alyson Oleyar and Laura Crowley received tickets to Broadway for raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project and for working on a project to make a journals for each of Sandy Hook Elementary School’s students.
Caren Ulcak from Texas won a two-night trip to California to see a Los Angeles Kings game for helping her teacher and fellow students.
A group of New York students, which call themselves the “Cousins That Care,” earned a stay in Boston, for raising $28,000 for people in need.
Sonali and Mano Ranaweera, from California, were given an all-expense paid weekend sports package to Portland, Or, to see the baseball team the Portland Trail Blazers and the soccer team the Portland Timbers, for their work in collecting recyclables to pay for surgeries for people with cleft lips and for supporting needy people in Sri Lanka.
California brothers Marcus and Andreas Josaitas received a two-night trip to Houston, TX, to see the Houston Dynamo soccer team, which is a partner with Newtown Kindness, for their help to raise money for others and for donating to an animal shelter.
Each Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness winner received a clear and pink award to commemorate their kindness.
According to Newtown Kindness, anyone the age of 18 and under is eligible to enter, entries are open to children in any location and are not restricted to Newtown, entries must include name, age, contact information. Entries are already being received for next year’s award.
There is a suggested donation of $5 per entry, which will go to the Charlotte Bacon Kindness Fund (c/o Wells Fargo). Profits will be directed to a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports the Newtown Community in honor of Charlotte Bacon.
Entries can be sent by mail to Charlotte Bacon Kindness Fund, 2 Old Farm Hill Rd, Newtown CT 06470, or emailed to Newtownkindness@yahoo.com.
For more information about Newtown Kindness and the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awardss visit newtownkindness.org.