'Start With Hello ' campaign to run through end of October

(Courtesy photo)

Mrs. Powell’s 5th grade class wants to say “hello” and to spread kindness. The activity is a part of the Madison School District’s “Start With Hello” recently started.

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It’s kindness versus COVID-19 this month in Madison County.

In one corner is the number of daily coronavirus cases reported. In the other corner is the amount of acts of kindness committed by residents.

“We’re hoping to beat the daily COVID-19 case number with kindness,” said Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill who gives a report of the new coronavirus cases each evening.

According to Eastern Idaho Public Health, Madison County had 66 new cases on Wednesday with a total of 2,208 reported. These numbers place the county in the high risk, or the third highest level of four risk levels.

The contest started on Monday with the Madison School District announcing its annual Start With Hello campaign that comes with a kindness component. The district also joined forces with Merrill to promote the initiative. 

“That’s our goal — to try to just do something to encourage acts of kindness in the community,” said Merrill. “It’s to make it a fun competition in the middle of all this craziness about COVID-19. It emphasizes all the good that happens in the community.”

The hope is that such a program will encourage everyone to be kinder, said Madison School District’s Communications Coordinator Jessica Goudy.

“Seeing those COVID-19 numbers can be very depressing, but it’s a reality. It’s a hard reality right now,” she said. “We want to have people work toward a common goal with those kindness numbers the same way we’re all working toward a common goal with COVID-19.”

Those looking for kindness activities may email the school district at topsecretkindness@msd321.com for ideas or pick up suggestions at the district’s office or at any of the district’s schools. Those who complete their kindness assignments are also asked to email a video or a picture of their efforts. Anyone can participate in the program.

“Right now six kindness missions have been completed and turned in,” Goudy said.

Those kindness missions have included everything from someone printing off a favorite quote and posting it on a mirror in a public place to a teacher cleaning up trash around her school.

One kindness project includes creating a hello video. The top 10 submissions will receive gift cards and a Hello T-shirt. The videos will also be posted online. The district also plans to print coloring book pages for the young and the young at heart. Ten of the best will be framed and displayed inside the district’s schools.

Another suggestion is to share how someone received kindness from another person and to encourage others to pay it forward.

“It moved you and made you feel good in that moment. Share an act of kindness that was done to you that makes people want to turn around and do something to someone in return,” Goudy said.

Residents may pick up an individual top secret “kindness mission” from the schools.

“Take a kindness mission, convince your boss, do it as a family, pick up an individual mission for each one of your kids,” she said. “Request, follow through and send us that mission. There’s no limit on how many you can do,” she said.

The school district has also created 75 colorful kindness rocks and placed them throughout the community. Those returning the rocks will receive a Hello T-shirt.

“Go look for them. Go for a little walk. Go as a family. Go once again as your business and go out and have a little fun,” she said.

The hope is that the Start With Hello project may also spread globally by residents sending the message out to all 50 states and 50 countries via Facebook’s Hello Around the Globe page.

“This is so much bigger than us. What we’re doing matters. It seems really small and insignificant, but it can be contagious. Help us get more states and countries from your network. So much is out of our control as a country, but these are things we can do,” she said.

Madison School District Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas says he’s thrilled to promote the Start With Hello program.

“There’s so much social isolation with people being online all the time and being isolated at home. The fact is that we can remind people how important it is to reach out and to say ‘hello’ to other people and help them feel included, welcomed, noticed and acknowledged,” he said.

Thomas says that the comments given following last year’s program indicate the campaign works.

“The feedback we’ve received from teachers, principals and parents has been ‘My son or daughter came home and said so and so said hi to me,’” he said.

Thomas urged residents to reach out to others this month.

“We can change the world one smile, one greeting at a time and let people know they are acknowledged, and that we’re all a part of a great community,” he said.

For more information on the project visit https://www.msd321.com/News/93#sthash.JQkJV5w9.dpbs.