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The Gift Wave

The Gift Wave
Posted on 01/30/2019
Rooney Ranch Elementary School teacher Laura Kendall guides her students through a “Gift Wave” brainstorming session.Third-grade brains were heating up here in Laura Kendall’s class at Rooney Ranch Elementary. Fractions tend to do that, but with the help of a few Watch DOGS, Rooney Ranch dads who volunteer, everybody was getting through it. They were anxious to finish because once they put the numbers away, it would be time to put all that young brainpower to work on their Gift Wave project.

“I think I think it’s important for our students to understand that there is a world so much bigger and greater than just within the walls of our classroom, and I think so often we get kind of stuck in the curriculum that we are here to teach. I think we need to figure out a way to let them know the things that we are doing in our classroom actually can impact on such a greater level,” said Kendall.

The Gift Wave is rooted in tragedy. Two years ago, one of California’s many wildfires, the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, hit Kendall hard, especially when she heard about all the children that had been affected. She turned a yearly Thanksgiving project, one in which her students do some creative writing about turkeys, into outreach, and asked her kids to send their stories to Santa Rosa’s Austin Creek elementary.

“I got really excited because we would be doing something for another school which I really like. The other school’s just been [through] a bunch of bad stuff and we wanted to get them happy again, so I got really excited about that,” said student Delaney Smith.

“I thought it was really nice, and I really felt bad for them,” added student Logan Storrs. “You don’t have a house. [This project] would be super, you would get cheered up.”

Kendall wanted to take it a step further.

“What if we were to reach out to a local children’s author that has actually visited our school in the past? He made a huge impact on me and our community,” she explained. "I thought wouldn’t it be great to reach out to him as well, and see if maybe he would be willing to, along with our stories, maybe send a class set of books to them, as well.”

That author was Mark Hoog, and he was delighted to hear about the Gift Wave, agreeing not only to send books but to make a visit to the Santa Rosa children on behalf of the class.

“The kids, oh, I’m going to tear up thinking about it actually,” said Kendall. "I know that many of the teachers and the kids were very, very affected by it in a great way. So, they’ve written letters back to us.”

Those letters were from the kids, several of whom had lost their homes.

“So, we know that what we did really, really hit home to them as far as bringing them happiness and joy, and that was really the purpose,” said Kendall.

Every year since, Kendall, the author, and her students keep trying to grow the Gift Wave, with the ambitious goal of spreading it to all 50 states in ways both large and small.

“We just want random acts of kindness like giving out books or giving people, giving homeless people some clothes and some food,” said Smith.

“It makes me feel really happy because we are doing stuff for others and that’s making them happy so when they’re happy I’m happy,” added Storrs.

Kendall is hoping that’s exactly what will happen with this project.

“This is something that they’ll think about way down the road,” she said. “And, that they’ll look back on this and go ‘That was something that I did that was really great for other people. Right, so how can we, how can we impact others in a positive way outside of our every day.”

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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