It is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose his or her child. That nightmare became a reality to Jeannette Mare, whose son, Ben, died just before his 3rd birthday.
Slowly but surely, their family began incorporating coping strategies into their lives by creating a design for Ben’s Bells, in honor of their son. They quickly learned how therapeutic working with clay was as well as being around individuals who were all working towards a common goal of spreading kindness. Soon, hundreds of bells were being made and distributed randomly throughout the Tucson community to encourage the kindness that they so depended on to get through each day. Since Ben’s death, Jeannette noticed how it was the kindness of others, strangers and friends, who had helped them begin to heal. And so, Ben’s Bells Project was born as a way to pass on that kindness while helping others in the process.
The mission of Ben’s Bells is to inspire, educate, and motivate people to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby strengthening our relationships, our communities, and ourselves.
Recent research demonstrates that kindness benefits our physical and mental health, and that recognizing kindness in others increases a person’s happiness and satisfaction. But just as solving a calculus problem requires advanced math skills, the challenges of daily life require advanced kindness skills. By focusing on kindness and being intentional in our personal interactions, we can improve our ability to connect.
Although Ben’s Bells Project is known for its colorful ceramic bells hung throughout Tucson and beyond, the organization also offers several programs to develop the life skill of intentional kindness. Ben’s Bells’ programs are based on the belief that everyone has the capacity to be kind and that kindness can be cultivated through education, visual reminders, and ongoing practice. The organization’s programs are consistent with this philosophy with specific programs for the education, awareness, and practice of intentional kindness.
The organization serves multiple constituencies, including youth in their Kind Kids and Kind Campus school programs currently offered in 300 schools, from Pre-K to College, people employed in Southern Arizona through their Kind Colleagues education program, and the community at large through their two studios.
K-12 kindness education programs have been implemented in 300 schools, and are touching the lives of more than 160,000 students! 16,612 individuals have volunteered over 24,365 hours in the 2014-year to help create Ben’s Bells and Kindness Coins. Additionally, Kind Kids and Kind Campus program participation increased from 225 schools at the end of 2013 to 300 schools as of July 2014.
Kindness is a life skill that is applicable to all ages, socioeconomic classes and professions, which are evidenced by the diverse group of education program participants and volunteers at Ben’s Bells, which totaled nearly 90,000 people in 2013 alone. The majority of Ben’s Bells volunteers help in the studio, working to create the ceramic pieces that comprise the bells. Helping to make the pieces for Ben’s Bells is a wonderful activity that’s perfect for a variety of purposes: team building, character education, grief response, rehabilitation, personal enrichment, entertainment and more. Volunteers can work with the clay to create beads that will one day adorn a Ben’s Bell, or decorate beads already sculpted by others.
What’s special to Ben’s Bells is that anyone can be a volunteer. Interested in how you can personally educate others on kindness? Check out the Ben’s Bells Project website here: https://bensbells.org