KILLEEN, Texas — The Saegert Stallions kicked off their school year with a $20 kindness challenge. It was an idea initiated by their principal which sparked random acts of kindness throughout the community.
Every year at Saegert elementary has a theme. This year, it's "ohana," which means family. Staying true to that theme, Principal Eli Lopez challenged her teachers to give back to the community.
It all started with a letter and a children's story about making a difference no matter how big or small.
"In education, there are ripple effects so everything you do has a ripple effect," said Lopez.
So, with $200 of her own, Principal Lopez gave each team of teachers $20 to give back to the community. The only rule, they could not give away cash.
"They did not know that it was my money it was just like here you go," Lopez said. "It was never about me it was about the difference they could make."
The challenge took these teachers across the city of Killeen. The 4th-grade team painted kindness rocks, while the 5th-grade team and school interventionists, created first-day baskets for Brookhaven Elementary 5th graders.
One of those interventionists, Michael Valentine said, he has worked for 15 years in KISD and is grateful to be a part of something like this.
"We decided to go to Brookhaven elementary and support their 5th-grade team," Valentine said. "We went to Walmart, and we made some goodie baskets for them to start off their year with a bang."
While shopping Valentine and his team took things a step further by helping an elderly woman bag her groceries and offer her a ride home.
"We call on the community to call and help us out so being able to go out and give back to them just felt really good," Valentine said.
He said none of this would have been possible without Lopez.
"Having that kind of leader being in that kind of environment is empowering," he said. "It makes you want to go out and do the same thing that she actually shows us that she is doing."
Another group also dug in their own pockets and donated to the Garden of Hope, a nonprofit helping children in the foster care system.
"For them to choose us for their kindness in the community was very heartwarming," said Joselyn Robinson, lead education caregiver at Garden of Hope. "I enjoyed every moment of it and the kids enjoyed everything they were able to get."
"It didn't take an act of Congress to make this happen," Lopez said. "I didn't have to take out a huge loan to make this happen. It really was having enough faith in what you do can move others to do that as well."
Valentine and Lopez hope their small acts of kindness can inspire others to do the same.