Caledonia – In the break room at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, homemade pink and purple cutout hearts made NICU nurse Denise Brown smile.
“It was fun and joyous to walk into the break room and have cute Valentines to look at,” Brown said. “Valentines made by kids always bring smiles to faces and it is nice to feel the support of all those great kids.”
The cards and sweet treat bags were made by students at Kettle Lake Elementary and delivered to health-care workers as an act of kindness and gratitude.
Brown’s NICU manager, Gabe Laney, said several cards and snacks were delivered to the primary COVID-19 unit, a floor on the front line of care where an act of kindness would be greatly treasured.
Principal Megan Ballmer explained the Kettle Lake Kindness Project started with simple cutout hearts and Valentine’s Day decorations in a kindergarten classroom.
“Her students made cards, and eventually other kids from other grade levels donated and packaged things, then other teachers wanted to help and the whole thing took off.”
Kindergarten teacher Mary Frey said she got inspiration from friends and family members of students who work in health care.
“Health-care workers, I know, felt isolated after the initial flood of support at the beginning of the pandemic,” Frey explained. “We felt the need to give back to the parents showering our school with kindness in lieu of volunteering this past year.”
Ballmer said more Kettle Lake parents want to be involved with their students’ school projects since they can’t come into the building to volunteer like they did before the pandemic.
“Families and staff donated hundreds of healthy snacks with tags of encouragement, hand-written notes of thanks and gift cards,” she said.
Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital nurse Kendra Platschorre assisted in the delivery to the hospital.
“It was such a joy to be able to hand out snacks and cards to nurses, nurse techs, physicians and pharmacists and see the joy it brought to everyone,” Platschorre recalled. “It’s an amazing mentality boost to see the handmade cards and notes from the kids, and helps us remember that we can do this.”
Ballmer and Frey agreed their young students have a great capacity for embracing kindness and showing it to others.
“I feel like our school has a pretty special bubble around it,” Frey said. “My hope is we continue to show kindness to help heal the community, our kids and our country.”
Other districts made similar efforts. Students at Wealthy Elementary in the East Grand Rapids district also made and delivered Valentine’s goody bags to staff at Spectrum Health’s Blodgett Campus.