When students at the Cranbury School raised nearly $2,255 in April for the Make a Wish Foundation of New Jersey, it represented just one way they are trying to help their community and the world around them through a student club.
“Cranbury Café for a Cause” was a fundraiser sponsored by the Kindness Club, a group that, true to its name, seeks to do acts of kindness. Students spoke about carving out time from their school work and other activities to participate in a club that looks to have them give of themselves.
Nichole Ball, a teacher at the school, serves as a faculty adviser to the club. She said the club aims to spread kindness in and out of school and “to teach our members the value of service and selflessness, helping others.”
Membership generally numbers between 15 and 20 students, Ball said. Meeting weekly, the students learn about the importance of being compassionate, having empathy “and how they can make a difference in the world,” she said.
“We focus on kids helping kids,” Ball said. “A lot of the things are to help their peers, to see what they have and to understand the importance of being grateful for what you have … ”
The Kindness Club, which is one of many extracurricular offerings at the school, is open to students when the enter fifth grade. That’s when Erin Carney, now a sixth-grader, said she joined.
Erin recalled she was new to the school, having moved to Cranbury from Hightstown, and said she saw the club as “a good way to make friends and have fun.”
Gianna DiGioacchino, a seventh-grader and Kindness Club member, is a student in Ball’s social studies class. Knowing about her teacher’s involvement in the club, she was interested in seeing what the group was about.
“And I thought it was a really great cause to just go and do the community service and help the Make a Wish Foundation … ” Gianna said.
Sammy Kandel, who is a softball teammate of Gianna’s, also got involved.
“It’s just like a really fun opportunity,” Sammy said. “You learn how to be non-selfish and help toward your community and think about the bigger picture and how small things can still affect people.”
For Valentine’s Day, students made cards for residents of a local nursing home, the Elms. The youngsters walked to the facility to hand-deliver the cards, “just in case the people didn’t have anyone to celebrate with,” Gianna said.
Club members also made a book of inspirational quotes and messages and sent it to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which was the scene of a mass shooting that left 17 dead in February.
Ball said participating in the club helps students with their communication and collaboration skills.
“It’s great to see them learn and grow,” she said. “Seeing their excitement and their drive with everything just makes it all worth (it) to me.”
“It showed me the value of hard work and community service,” Gianna said of being part of the Kindness Club. “This has shown me different ways I can help my community.”