When my 2-year old son Ben Maré Packard died unexpectedly eleven years ago, my life changed forever.
I began incorporating coping strategies into my life, one that included making Ben’s Bells in an effort to use the therapeutic effect of working with clay to help with healing. On the one-year anniversary of Ben’s death, hundreds of our homemade bells were distributed throughout Tucson, hung randomly in trees, bike paths, and in parks with a written message to simply take one home and pass on the kindness. On that day, the Ben’s Bells Project was born. To date, more than 30,000 Bells have been distributed throughout Tucson and beyond.
After the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, my organization was overcome with requests to bring Ben’s Bells to the Newtown, Conn., area. Although many of the requests came from our local residents who were aware of the symbolic power of the Bells, dozens of requests also came from Newtown. We knew we needed to respond.
Because of Southwest Airlines’ incredible generosity, Ben’s Bells was able to travel to Connecticut in order to assist our Newtown friends with their unimaginable grief. You can listen in to Mrs. Green’s World radio show podcast in Tucson to hear more about the unique story of how we linked hearts with Southwest. When we arrived, more than 100 Newtown volunteers gathered to hear the story of the Bells and to receive a bag of Ben’s Bells that they could help hang in public spaces all around the area.
The community of Newtown was so energized by the spirit of the Bells that they soon asked for more, and thanks to Southwest, we were able to travel a second time! We spent a week working with hundreds of volunteers teaching them the bell-making process from start to finish. “Open Studio” times were booked for three months in advance, and our local organizers received more than 500 e-mails about participating in the trainings we offered that week. The response was tremendous!
The Ben’s Bells Project and the community of Newtown are incredibly grateful to have received Southwest Airlines’ support. Through their kindness, our friends in Newtown were provided with an incredible opportunity to come together as they journey through their grief. We are forever grateful!