Students spread joyful messages

Groups hang ornaments with positive words along Main Street

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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photoTaryn Larsen, 9, stops to look at a Santa-themed window display as the Junior Joy Team makes its way from Hough Elementary School to Esther Short Park down Main Street, Students hung ornaments embellished with positive messages on trees along the route.

(/The Columbian)

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Neither sleet nor relentless rain nor 37-degree temperatures prevented kids from spreading joyful messages along Main Street on Thursday morning.

About a dozen members of the Junior Joy Team and the student leadership team at Hough Elementary School hung 350 Christmas ornaments with joyful messages onto the branches of trees and bushes as they walked the almost mile-long route from the school to Esther Short Park.

As part of the school's ongoing focus on character traits, December's focus was on kindness. Students crafted the laminated ornaments with kind, positive messages including: "Merry Christmas," "Love your life" and "You're beautiful." The ornaments are offered as gifts to any who finds them.

Jenny Mowery, the school's teacher-librarian, advises the Hough student leadership team. She meets regularly with Hough parent and Junior Joy Team leader Michele McKeag Larsen to plan ways for students to spread joyful messages beyond the school walls and into the community.

Students hanging ornaments on Friday represented Hough and Felida elementary schools, Discovery and Covington middle schools and the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. Students hung joyful messages all along the route including on the reindeer decoration at US Bank at Main and 16th streets, on a chestnut tree in front of Compass Coffee and the Hidden House, on a bush outside of Rosemary's Cafe and on a bush near the historic Kiggins Theatre, where the marquee advertised the classic Christmas movies "It's a Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas."

"I'm cold!" one girl shivered.

"Hang on," said Larsen. "We're almost to Esther Short Park, and they'll have hot cocoa waiting for us at Umpqua Bank."

When they reached the park, kids ran across the street to Umpqua Bank and the promise of hot cocoa served with mini marshmallows.

After the students warmed up with cocoa, they wrapped joyful messages on hundreds of donated jars of peanut butter, which the team will deliver to Share's backpack program to feed hungry Vancouver kids. People who want to support the Junior Joy Team and Share's backpack program can donate peanut butter at any Umpqua Bank.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com