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Ilalko project teaches kids compassion, supports Sandy Hook kids

Michelle Rylands, left, Ilalko Elementary School PTA secretary, and Lyndsay Morris, school counselor, display the “Hands of Hope” quilt that will be sent to Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Ilalko also plans to send donated copies of the book, “Good People Everywhere”, to the school.  - Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter
Michelle Rylands, left, Ilalko Elementary School PTA secretary, and Lyndsay Morris, school counselor, display the “Hands of Hope” quilt that will be sent to Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Ilalko also plans to send donated copies of the book, “Good People Everywhere”, to the school.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

The massacre of 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. horrified the nation.

In the days and weeks that followed, Ilalko Elementary School Counselor Lyndsay Morris began thinking hard about doing something for the kids in her charge.

"What can we do to keep kids safe," Morris asked herself.

Michelle Rylands, secretary of the Ilalko Elementary PTA, also felt the need to do something in the wake of Sandy Hook.

Both women began moving, though at first along different tracks.

Morris wasn't interested in teaching kids about the carnage at Sandy Hook.

Because compassion is the trait of the month at Ilalko, Morris contacted Lynea Gillen, author of the highly acclaimed book, "Good People Everywhere," to pick up some copies.

Her idea was to teach kids important lessons about demonstrating and recognizing acts of compassion, the very opposite of what the Sandy Hook shooter displayed.

Morris also began to lead her students in Yoga Flow to develop in them a a sense of safety, strength and service in a time of chaos.

Meanwhile, Rylands was busy with her project.

"We took a couple of kids from participating classes, put handprints in different colors of paint down on paper and put it together like a quilt," Rylands said.

At the end of the month, Rylands said, the "Hands of Hope Quilt," will be mailed to Sandy Hook.

One day Morris called Rylands for advice, and Rylands suggested that they combine their efforts.

"She got the ball rolling," Morris said. "She wanted to get something big happening in Ilalko, to get kids and families involved."

"Lyndsay had a wonderful idea about books," Rylands added. "The author of 'Good People Everywhere' graciously agreed to donate 60 copies of her book. We want to send 120 copies to the kids at Sandy Hook."

Paying for the remainder of the copies is the focus of a fundraiser just now picking up steam. The school's families are sponsoring a book for $16. The name of the sponsor and a message of his or her choice will be printed in the front cover of the book.

"We hope to create interest from families, businesses and organizations and move them to sponsor a book," Rylands explained. "It is important to us that this is a community project and not something limited to just our elementary school, as the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook impacted our entire community."

"Anyone can sponsor a book," Morris added. "We want to send as many copies as we can."

Ilalko Elementary's students are also engaged in a compassion competition. When a youngster performs a compassionate act, his or her teachers post the deed up on a bulletin board for all the world to marvel at, yellow cards for youngsters in grades K-2, red hearts for students in grades 3-5.

"It's not enough to teach students about compassion, we want them to demonstrate it," Morris said. "We want that bulletin board to be filled by the end of the month."

Interested people may contact Rylands at mrylands@gmail.com or stop by Ilalko Elementary at 301 Oravetz Place SE to drop off a payment and a message to be printed in the front of the book.

"I will drive to businesses and organizations that want to sponsor a book and pick up the payment for convenience," Rylands said.

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