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LI students' acts of kindness honors Newtown shooting victims

Ryan Berman of West Hollow Middle School in

Ryan Berman of West Hollow Middle School in Melville donates teddy bears he collects by performing acts of kindness. (Credit: Tracy Berman)

While my kids were out frolicking in the snow the days after Blizzard Nemo hit Long Island, Ryan Berman, 11, and his classmates Jesse Boudin, Josh Miller, and Cole and Cory Rappaport were out braving the elements and helping their neighbors. The sixth-graders at West Hollow Middle School in Melville shoveled porches and walkways, made snowmen, and wiped off car windows. They raised $90 and gave the money to their Team 6-1 English teacher Marybeth Clark to buy teddy bears for displaced children.

As part of a school initiative to perform random acts of kindness, Team 6-1 is again joining efforts with Suffolk County Family Court Judge David Freundlich, who has a long-standing program that gives displaced children in the county a teddy bear to let them know they are loved and are not alone. Clark’s team last year donated more than 300 bears. This year, Team 6-1 is honoring the lives of children lost in Newtown, Conn., and team teachers including Clark, Janet Chan, Zoe Chiam and Andrew Gambardella took the “idea one step further.” The students need to “earn” (not just buy) the bears through personal sacrifice. The bears will be delivered to the judge by Feb. 28.

The school is also making a video to send to Newtown, Clark said. “We researched each of the 26 killed, selected 20 kids and six adults to honor each victim personally with one of the bears in each of their memory. Each person selected had something in common with the children. For example, one of the little girls who was killed loved horses and the color pink, so a girl on our team who rides horses will wear pink, honor the girl in a short speech with their picture attached to the bear and pay tribute to each victim.”

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Clark praised Ryan’s enthusiasm, saying he has gone “above and beyond in this initiative.” Ryan is also raising funds through his Hebrew school classes at Temple Chaverim in Plainview and through Homework Hub, LLC, a tutoring program in Melville.

“I really enjoy raising the money because I know it will make another child happy,” Ryan said. “Not only did we help children who had to leave their troubled homes, but we all made the lives of people who were stuck during the blizzard a little bit easier.”

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