Photo: Renee Dee and Kaneland parent Sarah Ziemba at the Kindness in Kaneland booth Friday. Photo submitted by Renee Dee to LLogan@elburnherald.com
KANELAND—What started as groups organized to combat bullying has turned into a collaboration within the Kaneland School District and community known as the Kindness Campaign. And its organizers are celebrating the campaign’s first anniversary this month.
Rather than create an anti-bullying campaign, Kindness Campaign co-organizer Renee Dee said it’s more of a reminder to make good choices each day.
“It’s better to send a positive message,” Dee said. “People have started to embrace the message, and hopefully, it’s making some kind of change.”
While most of the Kaneland community is involved in some way, Dee and Leigh Ann Reusche were the impetus behind the movement.
Dee said the true purpose of the campaign is to assist with the social emotional issues of not only the School District’s students, but also the parents.
“No other organization is doing that in the Kaneland area,” Dee said.
KHS Assistant Principal Mike Rice agreed that it’s good to get the message out to remind people how important the little things are and the positive impact they can have on others.
“I wouldn’t say we never have trouble here (with bullying), but we have policies to work with students to get to the core of the problem,” Rice said.
Rather than just punish students for bad behavior, Rice said school administrators prefer to work with students to make positive behavioral modifications.
“We try to talk about with them about how their actions impact other people,” Rice said.
Along with assisting students one-on-one as needs arise, the district provides speakers. Dee has helped find speakers who can make a positive impact.
“I find resources and speakers, and act as a funnel to bring resources in to discuss things like Internet safety, healthy friendships, that kind of stuff,” Dee said.
For example, Jeff Dean, a policeman who specializes in Internet and personal safety, has spoken with students several times over the past year.
“A lot of issues are technology-related, and that brings bullying to a whole new level,” Dee said. “Jeff helps parents understand how to manage kids’ daily phone usage, raises awareness and teaches about having difficult conversations.”
Another speaker is Amy Logan, author of the book “A Girl with a Cape: The True Story About the Superhero in All of Us,” seeks to empower girls to be super.
Dee said organizers have worked with the Lions Clubs, and the Sugar Grove Library is sponsoring a writing contest during October. The event will focus on healthy friendships and being a good friend.
The most recent Kindness Campaign kicked off with a happy dance at the Sugar Grove Corn Boil last July, Dee said.
October is national bullying correction month, providing the perfect time for the start of the new campaign to raise awareness. Dee said Harter Middle School has a new program, “Project KC.”
“Last year’s theme was ‘be nice, be happy.’ This year’s theme is ‘be kind,’ and next year’s theme will be ‘be good to each other,’” Dee said.
Rice said the campaign has just gotten underway for the year with appearances at volleyball and football games last week. Various groups wore lime green in support of the campaign, and the volleyball team members presented their opponents with gift bags. The pom pon squad entertained with a special performance.
Rice said Kaneland administration and staff support the campaign, but it’s really on the student organizations to make things happen.
“It’s kind of on them to take it over, and it has gained momentum,” Rice said. “It’s nice to celebrate the good things.”
“All of these kids are good, nice kids; they just need to be reminded,” Dee said.
She said it’s important to remind kids to focus on following their own heart and their own inner voice, not the crowd.
“This campaign belongs to the community,” Dee said. “And it has taken on a life of its own. “It’s nothing we could have imagined when we started it.”