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Janesville student wins Newtown essay contest

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AMES, ANN MARIE
February 25, 2013

— Ariana Pensy carried a little pink bucket with her from Janesville to Newtown, Conn. Full of kind words from Janesville third-graders, the bucket was meant to help fill the hearts of sad families in the small Connecticut town.

Ariana left the bucket and brought back to Janesville a full heart. Her mom and teachers hope she will inspire other children and adults in the community.

Ariana, 9, is a student in Lee Gruber’s third-grade class at Harrison Elementary School. She was one of eight children from across the nation honored this week in the first-annual Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Award ceremony.

Charlotte was one of the 26 people killed in December at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown. The ceremony was held Friday on what would have been Charlotte’s seventh birthday.

The contest invited children to write, draw or tell stories about acts of kindness they did for others. Ariana’s essay and picture were inspired by a children’s book Gruber read in class called “Have You Filled A Bucket Today,” by Carol McCloud. The book encourages children to create their own happiness by doing kind things for others.

The message stuck with Ariana, her mother, Lara Bush-Pensy of Janesville said.

In her essay, Ariana wrote about befriending a child with whom other children didn’t want to play.

Reaching out to someone made Ariana feel good, she wrote.

“When you help someone, you don’t just fill their bucket,” Ariana wrote. “You fill yours, too.”

Ariana decorated a pink bucket—Charlotte’s favorite color—and asked her classmates to write kind things on paper hearts. She took the bucket to Newtown and presented it Friday to the community during the awards ceremony, Bush-Pensy said.

It was a sweet moment among many during the emotional ceremony at HealingNewtown Art Space, a gallery created to display the letters and artwork that poured into the city from around the world after the shooting.

Before, during and after the ceremony, Bush-Pensy was amazed by the reaction of people to Ariana’s simple essay. People have printed it out and hung it in their offices, she said. They’ve passed it around to their friends.

The sweet story makes people want to be kind to others, Bush-Pensy said.

“It fills them up,” she said. “It really seems to motivate people.”

The kindness already is coming back to Ariana. Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, a Wisconsin native and former UW-Madison football player, heard about Ariana’s essay and is taking the family out to dinner this week, Bush-Pensy said.

Additionally, the family made what she thinks will be lifelong friends during their trip to Newtown, she said.

“They’re just incredible people,” Bush-Pensy said. “When you think about what they’ve been through, it would move you beyond belief to meet them.

“Love absolutely lives in Newtown.”



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