Father Lacombe students spread hope and warmth to central Alberta’s homeless

Riyo Cuenca, 6, left, and Demetri of Taryn Bennett's Grade 1 class at Father Lacombe Catholic School show off their messages along with the purple blankets the class gave out as part of their "Blankets of Hope" project to spread kindness to the homeless. Photo supplied

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A group of students from Father Lacombe School gave a little warmth straight from their own hearts to some of central Alberta’s homeless.

A total of 18 students in Taryn Bennett’s Grade 1 class sent 20 purple blankets, accompanied with handwritten messages of inspiration, to the Mustard Seed in Red Deer.

“The faces of the people who worked there lit up, but then the homeless and the less fortunate’s faces…they were thrilled,” said Bennett. “One of my friends works at Safe Harbour in Red Deer and she said that she saw five of her clients come in with the purple blankets so our small group of 20 students made a big lasting impact on the homeless community.”

Father Lacombe Catholic School’s Taryn Bennett sits with all 20 of the Blankets of Hope her Grade 1 class put together for the homeless. Photo supplied

The simple act of kindness was part of what is a growing global project known as Blankets of Hope. Started about three years ago in New York by brothers Mike and Nick Fiorito, it aims to help keep those on the streets warm both inside and out by letting them know that someone out there cares.

Bennett discovered the project through a viral video making the rounds on social media, and said she knew she had to reach out to the brothers.

“Our class and our school thrives on community connections, and when I saw this video, I thought:  ‘this is a global connection,’” she said. “Connection is really key for us and this is a really good way for us to connect.”

Each of the students attached their own messages from “You are kind,” to “You’ve got this,” and “You sparkle like glitter,” all meant to brighten someone’s day and make them feel a bit better regardless of their situation.

While the students themselves didn’t drop off the blankets, it was still clear they understood the importance of what they had done.

“People can get lonely…if you give out Blankets of Hope, it’s really kind,” said Kalia Carigill, 6.

The class has put an emphasis on kindness in all its forms, and Bennett says it’s what makes the class shine.

Dennis Lamy, 7, said it was important to show kindness so “there’s no bullies left,” while others in the class said it simply made others happy.

One of the key ways they work on spreading kindness is through their kindness bucket list, where students came up with ways to be kind to others. Items on the list – much of which have already been checked off – include giving kind notes to others, picking up litter around the school and community, helping to clean up the classroom and spending time helping the school custodian.

The latest item to be checked off the list was Bennett’s, which was giving blankets to the homeless.

Father Lacombe was one of only three schools in Canada that participated, and they were the only class within the school to do so, but that will change in the 2019-20 school year.

“Next year we’re going to do it school-wide, so we’re going to get over 200 blankets,” she said. “We’re planning to take our Grade 9’s to Calgary or Edmonton where there is a bigger population of the homeless and actually go out on the streets and hand them out – just to have a bigger impact on them.”

For more information on Blankets of Hope, visit www.blanketsofhopenyc.org.