- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) - A group at Woodward High School took the idea of a message in a bottle to a new and completely different level.

On football senior night in late October, teacher Chelsea Cruse and 45 high school students who make up the Friends of Rachel Club at Woodward High School, released 35 helium balloons. Each contained a message of kindness in the hopes that the balloon would find its way into the hands of someone.

Cruse’s contact information was included on each message. A few days after the balloons’ release, she received an email from the Sommer family in Lake City, Minnesota (about 71 miles southeast of Minneapolis), a distance of more than 800 miles from Woodward.

Woodward News (http://bit.ly/1MZbvjj ) reports that Sheri Sommer’s husband found the note while trimming trees and brought it home with him. The message read, “This is a wonderful day. You’ve never seen this one before.”

Cruse indicated that each balloon carried the same message and that the goal was to spark a chain reaction of kindness and love in honor of Rachel Scott, who was the first victim at the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

“The focus of our local Rachel’s Challenge Club is really on the chain reaction of kindness,” Cruse, who serves as a sponsor for Rachel’s challenge at the high school, said. “That has been a huge, huge thing for us. We’ve done something called the Clothespins of Kindness, where you write a message of kindness on a clothespin and then if you know someone who’s having a bad day you clip to their shirt, or their coat, or backpack. They would find it and spread it to someone else.

“We’re also trying to focus on new students who come to Woodward High School and try to make them feel more a part of our community. We also seek to involve those students who are kind of on the outside, trying to provide them with a more inclusive environment.”

Cruse said students in the club were so excited that one of their balloons made it to Minnesota that they’re making tentative plans for another balloon release in the spring.

According to the website, www.rachelschallenge.org, Rachel’s Challenge is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe, connected school environments where learning and teaching are maximized. Rachel’s Challenge provides a continual improvement process for schools designed to awaken the learner in every child.

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Information from: The Woodward News, http://www.woodwardnews.net

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