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Acts of kindness forge links in OMS chain

OMS student Lewis Marshall covers himself with the chain of kindness. (click for larger version)

OMS student Kali Ballek helps stretch out the chain. (click for larger version)
June 23, 2010 - A paper-chain comprised of recorded acts of kindness by Oxford Middle School students was untangled and straightened out in the main hallway of OMS on June 16.

And just like the Energizer bunny, it kept going, and going and going.

The chain was the culmination of the middle school's Chain Link Club's efforts to try to get students to record every single act of kindness that they showed towards other students and faculty.

"Any act of kindness shown allowed them to make a link of the chain," said Chris Gill, one of the counselors at the middle school.

By the time the chain was untangled, it had traveled the hallway back and forth between the main entrance and the door that leads into the gym nearly three times.

"I would have been thrilled with it going front to back...but to see what they did today, I was really amazed," Gill said.

The project began in the first week in October after guest speaker Dave Gamache from Rachel's Challenge visited OMS Sept. 24 to share the message of Rachel Joy Scott, who was killed in the Columbine shootings on April 20, 1999.

Gamache spent nearly an hour telling the middle schoolers about how the acts of kindness and compassion could potentially change a school.

Upon the conclusion of his presentation, he challenged the middle schoolers to form a Chain Links Club, the middle school program for Rachel's Challenge.

Gill noted that students from all three grade levels were enthusiastic about signing up for the club and taking the challenge to heart.

"It was kind of interesting to see a group of kids take it so seriously," she added.

However, Gill was paticularlly proud of a group of eighth graders that become the core group for Rachel's Challenge and the Chain Links Club.

The group consisted of Maryann Stockard as the student leader for the club, Lewis Marshall, Hope McColl, Ashley Murdock, Alix Jyawook, Taylor Taraski, Jordan Acord, Jessie Duronio, Jenna Duronio, James Beaupied, Taylor Boes and Austin Pickwick

They stopped recording the acts on May 20 and collected them on May 21.

In addition to having students record their acts of kindness for the chain, the club took part in sponsoring several service projects that happened in the middle school.

"They did a fund-raiser throughout the year with the goal of helping one charity of their choosing," Gill said.

The group selected Oxford/Orion FISH and presented them with a $200 check around Christmas. They will present FISH with another check in the coming weeks.

According to Gill, the club also helped spur on one of the biggest turnouts for Relay for Life that Gill has seen during her time at OMS. They sold merchandise at the event and donated all of the proceeds.

One of the proudest moments Gill had with the club was when they stepped up to help raise $1,000 for the families of Brianna and Sy'mone Johnson and Ashley Felder after they were killed in a car accident on Jan. 11.

The unveiling of the kindness chain-link was a culmination of everything the group did that year. "The kids were very excited and I think we were all winners because we surpassed our goal," Gill said.

Gill added that the coolest thing for her about Wednesday was seeing the amazement on the faces of the students who walked by while the members of the club were stretching the chain from one end of the hallway to the other.

Gill plans on spending her summer figuring out plans for next school year.

"We're going to have to reignite the Rachel Challenge fires at the beginning of the year, plus introduce it to the new six grade class and new students," she said.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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