OLATHE, Kan. -- The holiday season is nearing, and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Mrs. Deets' kindergarten classroom at Green Springs Elementary School in Olathe. But her little helpers don't just bring a smile to people's faces once a year; they do it every day.
Visiting her classroom is like visiting the North Pole at Christmas time. Little hands working hard to bring a smile to those who really need it.
"It makes my heart feel happy. So that other people can be happy again," student Jackson said.
Mrs. Deets' workshop is open year-round.
"Over the last five years we've sent out nearly 500 packages and we've heard back from a lot of those recipients," the teacher said.
Her helpers stay busy making what she calls "smile packages."
"Our goal is to spread kindness. Lots of the packages go to people that are really having a rough time, maybe through death or illness, and we just want them to know that there is hope and there is a smile somewhere even if we don't know them," she said.
Every Smile Package is different. Most have letters, toys, even heart-felt drawings.
"We wrote a Smile Package to a soldier who that has just started at basic training. He was having kind of a hard time away from his family for the first time so we just want to tell him, thanks for being brave, thanks for supporting our country," Mrs. Deets said.
And as the kiddos are beginning to see, sometimes it takes something very little to leave an impression that's very big.
"They're smiling things to make other people happy," Jackson described.
This workshop is learning at a very early age about compassion and empathy. Mrs. Deets started the project 15 years ago in one of her classrooms and over the years it's evolved into a massive undertaking.
"Last year my kindergarten class wrote 150 letters to everybody from cancer patients to people who have lost a sibling, to veterans, to anybody who needs a smile. We send out the package to anyone who needs a smile," she explained.