Students’ anonymous act of kindness warms hearts (and heads) in downtown Chicago

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CHICAGO — As winter’s brutal cold settles in, a group of suburban students stepped up to warm the heads of Chicago, and thanks to social media, their actions warmed hearts, too.

On Martin Luther King Day, when temperatures only reached the teens, nearly 100 students from Evergreen Park headed to downtown Chicago to quietly perform a good deed.

It was all done without much fanfare until South Loop resident Laura Cooney spied a scarf on a park bench.

“My daughter saw another scarf, another hat, then a whole slew of them,” she said. “We noticed how kind it was for the soul, or souls, who did it.”

Cooney and her daughter didn’t know who had placed scarf after scarf up and down Michigan Avenue from the Hilton Hotel all the way north to the river.

Attached to each one was a note that read, “I was not forgotten here and neither are you. We hope this scarf brings you warmth.”

Cooney called the whole thing “beautiful” and was so overwhelmed by the generous and selfless act on a freezing cold day she shared it on Facebook. She posted a few pictures and ended her comments with, “Another reason why Chicago is great”.

Little did she know that mostly students from Central Middle School in Evergreen Park were behind the whole thing.

“A lot of students want to make change in the world, they don’t know what to do,” Julie Kelly, a teacher, said.

A student leadership group at the school devised a simple plan with simple execution. On Martin Luther King Day, a day of service, roughly 100 people on three school buses with 500 plus donated scarves in hand made the trek to Michigan Avenue to decorate the city with warmth for the homeless. The note attached to each one was carefully selected.

“It just seems so cozy and warm and caring and basically would make someone feel super happy,” sixth grade student Ava Doerr said.

It was an anonymous act until the kids were quickly outed on Facebook.

“No one did it for the publicity of it. They did it out of the greatness of their heart,” Nuala Rabbitte, an eighth grade student, said.

“It felt cold when we first got out there, but then when we started putting stuff on benches and poles, bus stops, it felt like good,” Mekhi Coleman, an eighth grade student, said. “I didn’t feel cold anymore.”

The students spent two hours in the cold but the sun shone light on a lot of good that was happening on the streets of Chicago that winter day.

The students and school partnered with Almost Home and plan to do it again next year.

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