Aurora Theater Shooting

Aurora theater shooting inspires local first-graders to launch Jar of Kindness project

How do you help young children cope with a terrible tragedy?

A first-grade teacher in Aurora has come up with a way. Every day after recess, the kids in Megan Anderson's class at Peoria Elementary sit on the classroom's alphabet rug and talk about the kind things they've done that day. Each kind act is worth one "warm fuzzy" for the class's Jar of Kindness. "We do this for the people that got hurt in the movie theater," first-grader Prisila says.

She's referring to the tragic July 20 shooting at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, when a gunman opened fire at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing twelve people and injuring seventy more. The youngest deceased victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was just six years old.

The children in Anderson's class came to school in the fall having heard about the shooting -- and wanting to talk about it. Some specifically mentioned Moser-Sullivan. "One boy said, 'The little girl, she liked to swim. She was so nice,'" Anderson recalls. "All the other kids kept saying, 'These people were so nice.'"

Anderson searched for a way to turn sorrow into hope. She says she thought, "I know the kids are going to be scared and I know I'm feeling that way, so what's something positive we can focus on amidst all the horrible things that are happening? I wanted them to be able to see what putting goodness out in the world can do for somebody."

Hence, the Jar of Kindness. She already had a jar from a math estimating game and she came up with the concept of "warm fuzzies" -- pom-pom balls from the craft store -- as a concrete way to represent good deeds. The idea was to fill the jar and then give the warm fuzzies to one of the surviving victims.

On a recent afternoon, the kids sat cross-legged facing Anderson and the half-filled jar. When she asked if anyone had a kind act to share, several hands shot up.

"When my sister's lip was bleeding, I took her to the nurse!" a student named Aubrey said.

"When I didn't want to be the tagger, Edson traded with me!" Julian shared.

Continue for more on theater shooting victims receiving the warm fuzzies.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

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