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Cool to be Kind: SOMA Leaders, Schools Unite in #ChooseKind Week Nov. 13

Get ready to #ChooseKind in SOMA! 11/13 is World Kindness Day, and in keeping with our towns’ progressive ideology, government and educational leaders have decided to join together to bring a week of kindness initiatives to children and adults alike – through the national social campaign #choosekind.

#ChooseKind is a national online and on-the-ground movement tied to the popular young adult novel Wonder, by RJ Palacio. On November 17, the major motion picture adaptation of the book will hit theaters nationally, as well as our own Maplewood Movie Theater – which will screen back to back showings of the film starting Friday at 4 pm for elementary and middle school children. Community members interested in the movie and the #ChooseKind initiative may also buy tickets in advance online and attend. *

Wonder (courtesy Lionsgate)

Wonder tells the story of a 10 year old boy with facial disfigurements who is sent to public school for the first time – and how he overcomes adversity, bullies and a lack of kindness in the world at large. It stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, as well as the young actor Jacob Tremblay.

The Parenting Center of the South Orange Maplewood School District and all elementary PTAs, as well as the Maplewood Memorial Library and the South Orange Public Library will all be offering messaging and activities that encourage citizens to do acts of kindness throughout the forthcoming week. Keep an eye out for City of Kindness posters around our towns as well, as South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Trustee Steve Schnall (and at another time, Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca) will be presenting Proclamations Monday evening at SOPAC designating both South Orange and Maplewood “Cities of Kindness”. SOMA will join New York, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Minneapolis, and many more whose mayors have identified their cities as a “City of Kindness” (

“As a welcoming and inclusive community, the Maplewood Township Committee is pleased to join this initiative and to promote acts of kindness throughout our town,” said Mayor Victor DeLuca. “There are so many ways we can be kind to one another, from visiting an elderly neighbor, to picking up litter as we walk the streets – to volunteering to make life better for someone else. We all need to be just a little bit kinder as we journey through life.”

“The greatest gift to give another human being is an act of kindness, and it’s free,” added South Orange Village President Sheena Collum.  “The personal struggles that both adults and children experience every day are real, yet are likely to go unnoticed.  Imagine a world where if once a day, everyone did a simple act of kindness to another person and that person paid it forward – what could we accomplish?”

Starting this Monday morning in SOMA elementary school class meetings, students will join with teachers and social workers throughout the district in discussing and performing intentional acts of kindness for the week, guided by a #choosekind curriculum piece called “Certified Kind Classroom Challenge”. Teachers at any school anywhere can visit to join the challenge, enter their students for prizes, or find activities. “The PTAs and The Parenting Center are so pleased to be sponsoring this district-wide event and to be tying this much-loved book to a week of kindness in our schools,” said Parenting Center director Karen Weiland, LCSW.

Over at the libraries, kindness-related activities will also be offered for children. “We decided we’re going to do a kindness jar,” said Maplewood teen librarian Emily Witkowski. “The idea is for kids and teens to take one slip home each time they come to the library, and leave a slip with something kind written on it for someone else.” The jar and slips for writing will be available in the Maplewood Memorial Library children’s room and teen zone at the main library starting on November 13, and possibly at the Hilton Branch as well. The South Orange Public Library will have a similar offering in their children’s room.

Collum added, “The Township of South Orange Village is widely known for being a very activist-driven community, and it’s my pleasure to designate us as a ‘City of Kindness’. I know our residents will rise to the challenge and already have – it’s our way of life.”

Wonder’s message of kindness and tolerance is so important – now more than ever. Looking for simple ways to teach kindness to kids, or a reminder for you? You can easily:

  • Donate blood
  • Give a compliment on social media
  • Write a kind note to a family member
  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee/meal
  • Pick up litter
  • Volunteer
  • Cook a meal for someone in need
  • Share a smile
  • Visit a nursing home
  • Hold the door open for the person behind you

South Orange Trustee Steve Schnall noted, “South Orange is very happy to participate in #Choosekind and proclaim that we are a City of Kindness as part of this wonderful national initiative.” He said the tenor of the town was recently reflected in South Orange’s designation as a Sanctuary City, as well as its campaign and downtown art project of photographs of SO varied residents and business managers declaring “Everybody Belongs Here”.

To help spread the word, and the love, please engage your children in discussions about how kind acts can help improve and change the world –especially in these times – and use the hashtags #choosekind, #wonder and #choosekindinsoma in your relevant social posts 11/13-17.

Questions? Email Tuscan parent and #ChooseKind organizer Alli Joseph at [email protected]

*Tickets for Wonder at Maplewood Theater are $7 or $11 (includes popcorn and drink), and should be purchased in advance online at,, or at the box office prior to each screening time.  The film will screen in special showings 11/17 at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm and 7 pm, as well as 11/18 at 10 am – one of which will be a “sensory friendly” screening.

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