Some small kids with big hearts are working to spread kindness and leadership across playgrounds in Brighton Area Schools.

The Recess K.L.U.B or Kindness Leadership Uniting Buddies was created by Charlotte Mandzuik, a student at Maltby Intermediate School who wanted to make playgrounds more welcoming and make sure no one was left alone. She initially came up with an idea to make sure everyone had somebody to play with at recess, which morphed into the creation of the Buddy Bench Club at Hawkins Elementary - a concept that was entered into a national Toys ‘R Us competition. While it didn’t win, the company was impressed enough that it donated $10,000 to expand the Recess KLUB at all of the district’s playgrounds. Students at Maltby, as well as Hawkins and Hornung Elementary Schools all held kick off celebrations Wednesday to mark the new endeavor.

Although recess was moved inside because of the rain Wednesday, the kids still had the opportunity to be part of games and special activities for the Recess KLUB. Different grade levels came through and first signed a “kindness pledge” before entering their names into a raffle for prizes from Toys ‘R Us and Jeffrey the Giraffe was also on hand to mingle with the kids. The pledge states that students pledge to be kind, safe and gentle to all people in the school and at recess.

Hornung Principal Jack Yates says 1st grade teacher Katie Kastamo is leading the Recess Klub and has been working with the kids to get it started and Wednesday marked the culminating activities. During the assembly, Yates says they talked about the Recess KLUB and the buddy benches where a student can sit, signaling to others they might be lonely or want someone to play with. Yates says kindness is always a good thing and it was a perfect opportunity for Hornung, adding he feels it’s something needed in schools that will help kids.

Kastamo told WHMI the 4th grade mentor students will lead other students at recess every other Friday in games but also lookout for kids who might need a friend to play with or visit the buddy bench to make sure everyone feels welcomed. Kastamo says the kids were all very happy and excited to sign up and had a good feeling about helping others. She says the mentors were all very proud to show the school that they’re going to be leaders and take charge to spread kindness amongst students.

Mentor students said it’s nice to know someone is always there and shows you have a kind heart because they don’t want kids to feel lonely and making new friends is fun.

Now that the Recess KLUB is up and running, each school will have a day where mentor students lead games and other activities to continue spreading kindness on the playground and in the buildings. There are also new and updated meet up spots and buddy benches on all three playgrounds. (JM)