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Thuderbirds soar high in kindness

CARNATION — Saying a kind word. Feeding the hungry.

Clothing the poor.

That's exactly what the 615 Tolt Middle School students did to keep

the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth- grade students logged more than

1,000 thoughtful gestures for the "Do Something Kindness & Justice

Challenge" in honor of the late civil rights

leader's birthday.

"I thought this would be the perfect thing for the leaders of our

school to ask their peers to do," said ASB coordinator Tracy Ralphs. "The

teachers really bought on and it was a resounding, `This is a great idea.'"

The challenge is meant to teach the youths about responsibility,

compassion, respect, nonviolence and moral courage. And, according to several

students at TMS, the two weeks of kindness has definitely made a

difference at their school.

"People will be more cautious and aware on how they treat others,"

said Ashley Dowden, an eighth-grade student leader.

"A lot of people stood up for more people; they were trying to be

kind," said student Heather Ekstrom.

"Generally they're becoming a little more nicer through the week," added

eighth- grader Chris Schlechty.

Many of the students' deeds didn't just benefit Tolt, however.

They stretched far beyond the walls of the Carnation school.

Eighth-grader April Eaton and her mother spent about $700 of their

own money to buy clothes, blankets, food and toiletries for dozens of

homeless people in Spokane.

"It was great because I could help them and I felt happy after that,"

Eaton said. "And they were happy because they had clothes."

Three boys also helped the less fortunate in Bellevue and

Seattle through their church youth group. In Bellevue some of the youths

helped in a food bank while others hit the streets of Seattle and passed

out lunches and played cards with the homeless.

"A little girl had a big cake with a snowman," recalled Marc Ballard

of his experience at the food bank. "And she said she was going to eat it all."

Dustin Ballard and Mitchell Luce were assigned to the city and said

they handed out about 125 sack lunches in Pioneer Square in less than 20

minutes.

"It makes you think twice about what you have and others don't

have," Dustin Ballard said.

There are hundreds of other stories of how Tolt Middle School

students emulated King's values, but the greatest lesson for them was the

discovery that it's a lot more rewarding to help people in need.

"Instead of being with people who are our friends, we reached out to

others," Marc Ballard said.

"Even if they didn't have a home," Eaton added.

"This really did help," Ralphs said of the experience. "I'd hear the

kids talking about, `Is that a kind act you're doing?' Even if they say it in

jest, they're recognizing it."

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