Peacekeepers at South Ridge Public School serve a valuable role.
"They help promote respect and kindness in our building – all the time," said South Ridge principal Paul Szorenyi.
The Grade 6 students were front and centre Thursday afternoon for the school's Acts of Kindness assembly.
"And this is Phil the Bucket," said Szorenyi, introducing the keeper of their 'Rings of Kindness.' "He's a super hero. When you 'Phil' someone's bucket, you're saying something kind and 'filling the bucket.'"
Inside Phil's overflowing bushel-size bucket were hundreds of paper rings, each representing an act of kindness completed by students during the past 3-4 weeks, inspired by Joe Drexler's 21-day Kind Every Time Challenge brought to Tillsonburg's elementary schools through the Kinsmen Club and local community support and sponsorship.
The Rings of Kindness provided South Ridge students both recognition and incentive.
Acts of kindness were already happening at the school, said peacekeeper Madison Turrill, but peacekeeper Dylan Dekeyzer felt some people were also making an extra effort to be kind during the 21-day Kind Every Time Challenge.
"Sometimes both," nodded peacekeeper Kyle Nesbitt. "As soon as the week started we got the (paper) strips for each class, and then they would do something nice. If someone saw it, they'd give them a strip and write down what they saw."
Holding open doors was a frequently recognized act of kindness, said Dekeyzer.
"And helping them with their work," said peacekeeper Kristen Coffin. "Like math, science, social studies..."
"Saying nice things," said Turrill.
"Like 'you look good today'," said Nesbitt.
"Or 'I like that shirt'," said Dekeyzer, confident the acts of kindness would continue through the school year. "Yeah, for sure."
"Every grade in the school had a different colour ring," said South Ridge teacher Ruth Ann Nagy, who has been working with the Peacekeepers all year. "The teachers and students, when they saw or heard anybody saying or doing kind things, or when kids came to school and said they did an act of kindness, then they would receive a Ring of Kindness. We put them all together, and today's assembly is recognizing the kindness that South Ridge promotes – the staff and students."
Their goal, said Nagy, was to stretch the chain of rings out so it circled the entire gymnasium, which they did toward the end of the assembly. All the students, 420 strong, were invited to join in holding the Ring of Kindness chain.
"Yesterday, they said there was around 700 rings," said Nesbitt. "But in the bucket today there was another 100 or so... so maybe around 900?"
"I'd give it 900," nodded Dekeyzer.
"I'd give it 800," said Turrill.
But the goal was 1,000 rings, Dekeyzer noted, increasing his guess.
"Probably 1,000," he smiled.
After fielding guesses from the students, Nagy announced they had collected 870 Rings of Kindness.
Thursday's Acts of Kindness assembly marked the end of their Kind Every Time/Phil the Bucket project, but Szorenyi believes the kindness will continue.
"Kindness goes on all the time," he said, looking forward to Joe Drexler's return when students will be given Kind Every Time certificates. "It never stops."