Kindness Flourishes in Times of Loss at York Elementary School

Inspiring Kindness Report

Thinking back to our elementary school days we typically have fond memories of friendships, playground games, and some of the most amazing teachers we will ever know. York Elementary in Vancouver, Washington is no exception to the joys of childhood. However, on Monday, November 27, 2017 they lost one of their very special first graders to cancer… her name is Mackenzie and she was an absolute princess and as beautiful as a butterfly to those that knew her. A loss of this magnitude is never easy to comprehend and to even harder to begin to tell such young children that Mackenzie was not coming back…impossible!

Mackenzie and Principal Harris
Mackenzie and Principal Harris

It was decided by York Elementary Principal, Dawn Harris, that letters would be sent home to parents the following day so each family could talk to one another, provide support and process this event as the best could.

Then on Wednesday, the school had a Staff Community Circle to process their own feelings. What is so frequently forgotten is that teachers are rocks for their students. They remain strong so others can be weak. Teachers are nurturers and caregivers to every one of their students every single day. However, with a loss like Mackenzie from their school, many staff members were deeply struggling. When they arrived in the faculty room for the circle this is what they discovered.


Dpt. B. McCarthy, CCSO and Cyndee Richards
Dpt. B. McCarthy, CCSO and Cyndee Richards

5th Grade Teacher, Cyndee Richards, kept asking herself what she could do for her colleagues in this difficult time. What she did was what she always did when strong emotions needed to be processed…she wrote. She laid out rows and rows of sticky notes across her dining room table and filled them with positive thoughts. She then used them the following morning to decorate the whiteboard in the staff room with words like peace, kindness, grace, friends, space and hugs and phrases like “You are loved.” This beautiful tribute to her school family then also formed a heart in the center that read, “Gather what you can, what you need, knowing, we are in this together.” To truly honor Mackenzie they needed each other and needed to show an unconditional love for one another. Cyndee knew that everyone needed to grieve in his or her own way and this was hers.

Cyndee commented that she sent that love out into the world to be received with no expectations about what it would do. She knew her kindness would be received well because York is a special place. She also said, “I didn’t need to be recognized or thanked…ever. I am a merely a product of all of the inspiring people around me who show me love and acceptance every single day. Small acts can make a big difference.”

We want to give our heartfelt condolences to Mackenzie’s family at this time of loss. We also want to give our love to the staff and families of York Elementary School as you strive to heal and love those you get to touch each day and in doing so honoring the memory of the one we lost. In addition, we want to honor Cyndee Richards for Inspiring Kindness.