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Tucson's 'Ben's Bells' project helps Newtown heal

Ben's Bells (Facebook Photo)

A Tucson support group is helping Connecticut residents heal after the December school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. They are doing so by ringing Ben's Bells.

Jeannette Maré is the founder of the Ben's Bells project. She created Ben's Bells in honor of her son, Ben, who died in 2002. He was almost 3.

"Anytime anyone would do an act of kindness for me, something as simple as opening the door for me, these gestures were completely live-saving for me," she said. And so she began the project to tell people how much their kindness meant. Now she's taking that kindness to Newtown, Conn.

On Jan.8, Maré along with 100 volunteers, hung 1,000 colorful ceramic Ben's Bells all across Newtown.

"We received story after story of what the bells meant to the community," Maré said. "They're just beautiful."

After many requests to bring more bells and to keep the spirit of kindness in Newtown, Maré is going back on Sunday to form a new chapter in the grief-stricken town.

Maré said she'll be going into school and community centers to train volunteers on how to make the bells. She hopes once momentum builds and enough funds are raised, there will be a studio in Newtown where people can express themselves as well as use art to cope with their grief.

The first bells were hung in Tucson a year after little Ben died -- 400 colorful chimes went up around the city in celebration of his memory. Since then, the project has hung over 30,000 bells across the nation.

The bells can be seen in Tucson year-round. With each bell a message reads, "You have found a Ben's bell. Take it home, hang it and remember to spread kindness."

"The bells symbolize our togetherness and the idea that we are very much connected," Maré said. "That we can do so much for each other if we can just be intentional about kindness."

In addition to bell distributions, Ben's Bells Project provides kindness education programming for more than 100 schools, organizations and businesses.

Visit www.bensbells.org or call (520) 628-2829 to donate and/or volunteer.

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