Friday, February 15, 2013

An Inspiring Day ~ Hannah Cole Primary School!

February 12, 2013 ~ I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at Hannah Cole Primary School in Boonville, MO today. My friend Jennifer Schenck connected me with Cindy Spaedy to coordinate this day. This week was "Kindness Week" at Hannah Cole Primary School and they wanted me to come talk to the 334 students (Kindergarten - 2nd grade) about my book, "Tom T's Hat Rack", and about the message of "Paying It Forward" to tie into this week. I learned a lot about this wonderful school yesterday and want to share some of this with you before going on....

Hannah Cole Primary School was built in 2009 and currently serves students from Kindergarten to 2nd grade. Normally each school year they have done "Pennies for Patients" and raised money to give to Leukemia patients and the Relay for Life. This year marked the 1st year of "Relay Recess" which encourages kids to be healthy. (They are the only school outside Kansas City and St. Louis in the state of Missouri to put this program in the school) They also show a video called "Why Charlie Brown Why?" which one of Charlie Brown's friends at school is diagnosed with Leukemia. You can watch it here or search YouTube for it. (It's almost 23 minutes long but great to see but be warned it will make you cry!)

A little girl held the door for me as I entered the school and I was impressed with this kind gesture. I could tell this school was different (in a good way of course) from other schools. It was very welcoming and friendly. When I had talked to Cindy Spaedy she had told me one of the students was currently going through chemo. I didn't ask questions about this child and last night I went to the store and purchased a hat and superman t-shirt for this child. When I arrived and made reference to what gift I brought (to make sure it was OK) she told me they had 2 Kindergartners going through chemo. One was a little girl and one was a little boy. (I stressed for a moment because I wanted this little girl to have a gift too and I would be speaking to the first of 3 classes in 10 minutes!)

The first group of kiddos were the 2nd graders! I talked to them a little about their "Kindness Week" and then incorporated "Tom T's Hat Rack". Cancer was not something new to these students and it was pretty awesome talking to them about my friend, Tom Trabue, who the book is dedicated to. (I even took a few pictures of Tom and Kim to show the kids what he looked like which they thought was pretty cool.... Tom had his Fedora hat on in these pictures) I than began to read the first 3 chapters of the book. Once I was done I got some great questions from them. Like "How did you come up with the characters in the book?" or "How long did it take you to write the book?" I had several questions on how did we make the book or how did we get the picture on the hard covers. It was great talking to them and they were a great group of students. I spent about an hour with them and it was so rewarding to have several the kids come up and tell me thanks for coming to read to them. Oh and I got a few hugs too!

We had about 30 minutes before the next group came in so Jennifer Schenck and I ran to the store to get the little girl a Hello Kitty Fedora hat and super-girl t-shirt. I can't do for one and not the other right?

When we got back it was time for the 1st grade class to come in. This was the biggest class of the school with 7.... yes 7.... first grade teachers! They were so sweet and I decided to read the first 3 chapters of my book then tie everything else in. (This seemed to make it flow nicer since they understood the story line) Those kids were like little giggle-boxes when I showed them the pictures. It worked much better and their questions were pretty good! They asked me if I was going to write other books, what would they be about, will they always be chapter books, how did we get my writing and drawings into the book and a few more. They were a fun group of students and I got lots of hugs from these kids!

It was then time to talk to the Kindergarten class. They were adorable and probably the best class at sitting still and listening. (It's so hard to sit still... even for me!) As I started to talk about what I do and my book I told them it was written about a good friend of mine that had cancer. The most adorable, sweetest little boy raised his hand (I knew which one he was because I talked to his mom who is the art teacher at the school and on this very day he began wearing a hat to school... how cool is that!) and I looked at him and nodded for him to say something. He said "I'm a cancer survivor" and I looked at him with a big smile and said "and I have something special for you in a few minutes if that's ok" he just smiled and seemed a little shy but nodded "ok". I finished talking about why I wrote this book and just before reading the first 3 chapters to them I asked that adorable little boy to come forward as I had a gift for him.

 This is Carter. Carter is the most adorable, cutest, sweetest young man who totally inspired me! (Natalia was the other Kindergartner that was currently going through chemo but wasn't at school yesterday) After giving Carter a "Mr. T Inspired Hat" and a Superman t-shirt (I tried to find a superman hat for him but they didn't have one) I asked Carter to sit next to me while I read "Tom T's Hat Rack". I even gave him the big chair with a cushion on it while I sat on a smaller chair.... he thought that was pretty cool! He gave his new hat to his mom to hold for him.

Told you he was cute as can be! 

I let Carter see the pictures in the book before showing the other Kindergartners and he thought that was pretty cool. At the end I let him help pick people to ask me questions which he loved! He told me that he had cancer when he was 3 and now he is going to fight it again. As we talked about kind things we can do for each other one of the sweetest little boys said "I know what you can do for someone else" then went up and gave Carter a big hug. (So sweet!) These kids asked some great questions and even stumped me on one.... "How many words are in your book?" I didn't know! I had so many comments on how they liked my book so far but wanted me to tell them what happens in the rest of the book. I told them all that Mrs. Schenck had purchased a book for their school library and they could check it out if they like. 

I got lots of hugs from the sweetest kiddos!

You ever get the feeling you are meant to be somewhere? I had this feeling and it was perfect... everything happened for a reason and I was so proud to come to this school. I met some of the greatest kids but one little boy made my whole day. Carter was amazing! He was so kind and understanding and I know he is going to fight with all his might and beat cancer again! I am so proud I had the opportunity to meet him and just wish I could have met Natalia too. I'm sure she is an amazing little girl and hopefully I get a chance to meet her one of these days! Thank you to Jennifer Schenck, Cindy Spaedy, staff and kiddos of Hannah Cole Primary School for letting me come speak to you..... you have an amazing little community!

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