By Terry Rogers
Wednesday, March 25 would have been Madison Peterman’s 15th birthday, a day that many would associate with sadness. However, her parents, Scot and Carrie Peterman decided on her 14th birthday that the day should be one of celebration as they created “Random Acts of Kindness Day” in Maddie’s honor. For the second year, citizens of Milford, surrounding communities and even other states performed random acts of kindness for others in their community.
Banneker Elementary School celebrated “Random Acts of Kindness Week,” challenging children to honor Maddie by completing 16 acts of kindness throughout the week. Bobbie Kilgore, Principal of Banneker, said that the acts of kindness were designed to be performed at school, in the community and at home. Each student was given a sheet that they were to color in with examples of random acts of kindness, such as “say hello to someone you don’t know.” Students who completed all 16 were allowed to have a “no dress code jeans day” on Friday, April 2 and be entered into a drawing for special prizes at the school PBS assembly.
“We also challenged staff members to complete their own 16 acts of kindness as well,” Dr. Kilgore said. “This morning, students were greeted with chalk messages for our students in front of the school. When they came into the school, they fond post-it notes with kind messages on office and classroom doors, as well as the cafeteria, gym plus each student’s locker. By the end of the week, we should have completed more than 9,000 random acts of kindness in Madison’s name.”
Janice Jester, who developed the program for the students, said that she asked students to complete a form in the shape of a million dollar bill that had the student’s picture in the center and the columns “My Goals and Values” and “Things I do Well.” Some students placed a photo in the center while others drew a picture of themselves.
“The cafeteria is giving out pencils this morning for breakfast and bookmarks today for lunch,” Ms. Jester said. “We have tied this in with Project Unify which is part of the Special Olympics which teaches diversity, acceptance and respect for everyone, no matter how different they are.”
Milford was full of random acts of kindness throughout the day on Wednesday. Lisa Fitzgerald said her four children took cookies from Dolce Bakery to an elderly widower neighbor and also offered to help him with his yard work. Amber Corkell-Tatman said that she purchased donuts for two ladies behind her in line at Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I brought in sweet treats for my co-workers and also picked up flowers to brighten a special lady’s day,” said Stephanie Tatman. “It felt so good to do something for others.” Kelly Banning Warren took Wawa gift cards to her daycare teachers, while Shannon West found a college student’s car in the parking lot and left a plastic bag with extra cash inside.
Many people dropped off gifts and supplies at local animal hospitals, while others, like Crystal Berry Sheets son, Bubby, delivered goodies to Bayhealth’s Milford Campus, the Milford Police Station and others.
“Bubby had such a great time performing Random Acts of Kindness for Madison today,” Ms. Berry said. “Bubby was excited that the pretty nurses at Bayhealth knew his name. We also sent a care package to a soldier in Iraq.” Meding’s Seafood Restaurant gave two random patrons free dinners that evening.
Many of those who received the acts of kindness expressed their gratitude for the gift but most commented on how special it was to remember a small girl in this manner.
“I was getting in my truck this evening when I noticed someone had placed something on my windshield,” George Durham posted on his Facebook page. “My first thought was someone is advertising something. When I retrieved it, I noticed it was a gift card along with a message. It is a random act of kindness in memory of a little girl. The card included a picture of a cute little girl with a big smile. The card talked about her, how she loved to show random acts of kindness and giving someone the hope of Jesus. I quickly found myself getting choked up. Though I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I will celebrate the birthday of Madison Scot Peterman. God bless you, young lady.”
The acts of kindness spread well past the borders of Milford, however. Kay Bell-Christine said that, although she no longer lives in Milford, she still loves the town and wanted to honor Madison’s memory. She and her family donated My Little Pony and Superhero action figures to the Emergency Room at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington. In addition, they made kindness lollipop flowers for all the first graders at Sunnyside Elementary in Smyrna.
“My random act of kindness was paying for the car behind me at Bojangles in Aiken, South Carolina,” said Marylee Blair, demonstrating how far news of the celebration has spread. Businesses also participated in the event.
WSFS in Milford, where Madison’s cousin, Laurie, works, gave out roses to customers as they came in and out of the bank that day. Stephanie Garnick posted on her Facebook page that one of the beautiful roses made its way to Wal-Mart in Milford where it was passed forward to associate after associate.
“The note attached let everyone know who didn’t already about Madison’s Day,” Ms. Garnick posted. “When I received it, it was paid forward.”
Sherry Shupe, owner of Fur-Baby Boutique and Doggie Daycare, said that a customer came in and paid for her to purchase an item for each of the daycare members as a gourmet treat while also buying cookies for each of the parents.
“It was a beautiful day, spreading kindness and the love of Jesus,” Carrie Peterman commented on her Facebook on one of the hundreds of posts telling her about the random acts they performed. “There was no better way for me to celebrate my lil girl. Thanks for the love and support.”