Kindness could be seen from classroom to classroom, with Ralls County Elementary School students adopting doors in Mark Twain Junior High School and Senior High School to decorate with an inspiring theme to match their classroom doors.

“Kindness is free. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”

During a visit to the Ralls County R-II campus, you don’t have to look far to see that students were engaged in an abundance of good deeds Wednesday, Feb. 14 — reflected in those sparkling words spread across a classroom door.

Kindness could be seen from classroom to classroom, with Ralls County Elementary School students adopting doors in Mark Twain Junior High School and Senior High School to decorate with an inspiring theme to match their classroom doors. From handshakes to handwritten “bucket filler” sentiments dedicated to staff and faculty members, students spread acts of kindness all over the campus. Throughout the week, students from Kindergarten to fifth grade showed their kindness as part of the Great Kindness Challenge — sharing why it mattered to be kind with students in every grade level.

Counselor Diana Duckworth said students’ smiles and courteous acts were apparent throughout the week, pointing out that students led the way on the activities like a fundraiser contest for the cutest staff member’s cutest baby photo, installing a large logo along the playground fence that read “Kindness Matters” in bright blue and decorating the doors for the students and faculty members in their neighboring schools.

“When I came up with the idea of joining in on this, I invited our fifth graders — since it’s their last year here — to run with this and to plan it,” she said.

The students gathered in meetings to come up with activity ideas. The students made cards for first responders, shared compliments with one another — and they joined together in teams to make a few surprises, too.

Skye McElvain’s fifth grade students performed a surprise installation of a door decoration for Superintendent Dr. Tara Lewis that read “Kindness is like coffee. You just gotta have it.” After the students trimmed the paper and taped the new decor in place, Lewis came out to thank everyone for their kind deed.

“I appreciate your kindness,” she told the students. “Have a great day.”

Students were also busy with a fundraiser to build benches for the school and the communities of Center, New London and Perry. So far, they gathered enough plastic lids and caps to build one bench. 2 Rivers Industries donated about 5,000 pounds of lids and Jason Liter with Liter Fertilizer and Chemical helped transport the lids. The remaining benches will cost $200 each to build, and the Tiger Cub Booster Club is currently accepting donations.

Outside, McElvain’s students helped one another as they snapped clips into the playground fence to spell “Kindness Matters.” Fifth grader Gretchen Niemeyer said she liked helping her classmates spell out the positive message.

“This is really fun, doing the kindness wall for the recess so all the other kids can enjoy it,” she said.

McElvain spray-painted a heart-filled banner, so students could add their handprints after they completed acts of kindness throughout the week. Each student received a checklist filled with kind acts for the Great Kindness Challenge — the list for Kindergarten and first grade students included activities like “invite a new friend to play,” “smile at 25 people,” make a wish for a child in another country” and “decorate 5 hearts and give them to friends.” For students from second through fifth grades, the acts of kindness included “slip a nice note in your friend’s backpack,” “pick up 10 pieces of trash on campus,” “help a younger student,” “show appreciation to a counselor or mentor” and “write a thank you on a Band-Aid for the nurse.”

Duckworth said the students’ leadership skills echoed their creativity and dedication to bringing kindness to every corner of the campus. From heartfelt handshakes during the morning assembly to the handmade cards each child made — kindness abounded throughout Valentine’s Day, and would continue through the rest of the week and beyond.

Students from each grade level shared the ways they perform acts of kindness. Preschool student McKenzie Cragen said she enjoys assisting her dad.

“I help Daddy work.... like give him hugs,” she said. Teddy Bergthold said he likes to show kindness with his family, too.

He said he enjoys playing with his brothers Jared and Justin. When his teacher Stephanie Snodgrass asked if he brought a dollar for the bench fundraiser, Bergthold smiled and exclaimed “yep.”

As Duckworth talked with two fifth grade students, they showed the bookmarks they were going to slip inside books in the library and in their classroom — each one’s message of kindness will help to show that kindness goes on after the challenge week concludes.

“Whenever we get the kids to do something, it’s so much more powerful if they’re the ones to connect with the idea,” she said.

Duckworth commended sponsors for their kindness for making the activities and bright red #Kindnessmatters t-shirts possible for students and faculty: the McElvain family, Hannibal Dental Group, Hannibal Regional, The Rebel Pig and an anonymous donor. Second grade student Alex Evans said he is eager to continue showing kindness by doing nice things for his friends.

“It’s good to be a nice friend,” he said. Classmate Jesa Engle agreed.

“At recess, sometimes when my friends don’t have anyone to play with, I bring them something to play with, and I play with them, too,” she said. “And I give high fives.”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at