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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA students help place bells for kindness

    Sam Shumaker / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Bryan Mascaro, English Senior
    Sam Shumaker
    Sam Shumaker / Arizona Daily Wildcat Bryan Mascaro, English Senior

    Constructing care

    UA senior Ashley Rable was awake before 6 a.m. yesterday, getting ready to scout out the perfect places to hang 10 of the 500 ceramic wind chimes that would be scattered throughout Tucson.

    Volunteers like Rable hung 500 Ben’s Bells in parks, along roadways and in unexpected places as part of the ongoing campaign of the Ben’s Bells project to remind people of the importance of spreading kindness.

    Ben’s Bells, a nonprofit organization at 816 E. University Blvd., distributed the bells for its third year, bringing the bell total to 5,500. The project was created by Jeannette Mare-Packard, whose 2-year-old son Ben died of croup four years ago.

    “”Yesterday was the anniversary of (Ben’s) death, so the emotions were up and down. The distribution of the bells is positive, it’s been a beautiful day, but my emotions have been up and down as far as the grief goes,”” said Mare-Packard.

    Mare-Packard, a UA adjunct instructor of special education, is also the adviser for the Ben’s Bells on Campus club, which meets with other UA clubs and delivers materials to help make the bells.

    Rable, secretary of the club and one of Mare-Packard’s students, said she believes in the project’s message of random kindness.

    “”It’s a really empowering thing to know that you are spreading kindness in a community that’s so deserving of it,”” said Rable, who has volunteered for the past year and a half.

    Rable said she picked up a map of her designated Tucson section and began looking for the perfect spots for her bells at 6 a.m.

    “”You always think of who’s gonna find this bell, who’s gonna walk up and see it,”” Rable said.

    She said each bell includes a note that reads, “”You have found a Ben’s Bell, hang it in your yard, and remember to spread kindness throughout the world.””

    Mare-Packard said the Tucson area was divided up into two-square-mile sections, in which each volunteer gave out 10 of Ben’s Bells.

    Since the project began, it has grown each year in some way. Recently, Ben’s Bells began distributing the bells to other cities. The project has already reached Flagstaff and Portland, Ore., and Mare-Packard said they will move on to Phoenix in two weeks.

    Mare-Packard said the organization has had many people interested in promoting the cause over the years.

    “”We have thousands and thousands and thousands, we don’t even count anymore,”” she said.

    Dustin McLaws, a sign language interpreting senior, said he has benefited from working with others to make Ben’s Bells.

    “”The whole experience is very rewarding, knowing that people are going to find the bells,”” he said.

    Mare-Packard said she started the organization in hope of spreading what had helped her heal after her son died.

    It’s a really
    empowering thing to know that you are spreading kindness in a community that’s so deserving of it.

    – Ashley Rable,
    sign language interpreting senior

    “”The kindness of people that loved us is what kept us going,”” she said.

    Even though Mare-Packard said she doesn’t know the source of her idea for the project, she said the bells complement the cause nicely.

    “”It’s a nice alliteration with Ben, (because) they are childlike and colorful,”” she said.

    Mare-Packard said the bell pieces are made in the community by schools, clubs and even businesses, all of which manage to create 1,000 bells every six months.

    When she visits schools, she passes out clay for kids to make beads with. She later fires them and passes them along to other volunteers to paint before firing them again.

    Each bell consists of a centerpiece and three beads made by many community members. The bells go through the hands of at least 10 people before they are completed, she added.

    “”It’s symbolic of community connection,”” she said.

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