In Castle Rock these days, within town boundaries, people who smile are targets.
Dare to smile at someone and you could get something: a thank-you card — to then pass along to the next smiling person.
About 75 cards are now floating around …
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About 75 cards are now floating around Castle Rock, part of a school project called “Castle Rock Connects Through Smiles Experiment” that goes on through March 31.
It was the idea of Beth Moreau, teacher and office administrator of Woodlands Academy, 1057 Park St.
Moreau, who also heads up the 300-member Castle Rock Cruisers swim team, said the project is an attempt to encourage people to smile, connect with people and help keep the town's small-town atmosphere. She said she moved to Castle Rock 23 years ago when it had 8,000 people and had a “very small-town feel.”
Moreau said it was typical then for her to strike up a conversation with people in the grocery store, but some of that has been lost in this now much-bigger town of about 50,000.
She said she thought up the smiles project after she was leaving a grocery store recently and a woman smiled at her.
“It was so nice to have that connection,” Moreau said. “I decided I wanted to have something to pass that feeling along,” an acknowledgment when someone smiles and something to encourage them to pass that along.
So on Valentine's Day, students and staff were given several cards to give to people when they smiled at them. The card encourages the smiling person to put their initials and age on the back and then pass it along to the next person who smiles at them. Everyone who is holding a card on March 31 is asked to return it to the school so students can count up how many smiling encounters there were in that time period.
The card states in part: “Woodlands Academy students are using this experiment to get individuals to connect and feel like a part of the bigger picture. We hope to confirm that Castle Rock is a community of caring people.”
Students shared in a recent interview how important, in general, being smiled at was to them.
Jenny Johnson, 11, a sixth-grader, said after her grandma died she was really sad and was in a grocery store when a woman smiled at her.
“It brought joy to my heart.”
Sophia Caramazza, 13, an eighth-grader, said she was feeling bad about herself one day when a lady smiled at her and “it made me feel better.”
Kailani Pico, 10, said her friend was moving away and she was really sad, so when someone smiled at her she felt better.
Maxfield Hohn, 11, a sixth-grader, said he liked the project because it helped him to “spread the small-town feeling across Castle Rock.”
The students, helped by their parents, found smiles in various places — the movie theater, store, church, even the dentist office. In the cards they passed out, about two-thirds of the people were women, fewer men.
Students commented in a recent interview they think the project has resulted in their smiling more than before.
Moreau explained that Woodlands Academy, which combines core knowledge and experiential learning, is a place for kids who are often given busy work by teachers while they try to help the rest of the class — kids characterized as highly motivated, if not gifted, students who love to learn.
Cardholders are asked to return to the cards to the school, 1057 Park St., on March 31. For more information, call 303-814-8582.
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