Acts of kindness among top stories in Burrillville in 2019


Welcome to the first segment of NRI NOW‘s 2019 Year in Review.

Over the next three days, we’ll count down the top stories of 2019, calculated primarily by traffic to the website.

In Burrillville, three major stories focused on acts of kindness make the list of most visited on the site this year.

The first was an unexpected and heartwarming story from a Burrillville woman who visited a gym in Woonsocket last February.

Lisa Simpson documented her visit to Planet Fitness in Woonsocket on social media after gym manager Dan Cote surprised her and bought Christopher Wagner Jr. – a 23-year-old man with Down syndrome in her care – a new pair of sneakers.

Cote, a city man whose battle to turn his life around and lose more than 200 pounds had grabbed media attention in 2017, credited his life struggles with his desire to help others.  The story, which included video of Cote kneeling down to put the shoes on Wagner, received 1,100 “likes,” on NRI NOW.

In September, students at Burrillville High School made news with their own acts of kindness, taking part in a competition to complete 50 kind deeds in 24 hours with the help of the community. 

Student Nick Hebert donates books to the library as one of the deeds required through the Do Kind program and school media specialist Dana Bruscini gladly accepts.

The challenge came to Burrillville as part of “Hello Week,” an effort to make the culture at the high school more inclusive, and was run through a collaboration with Massachusetts-based nonprofit Do Kind. The students completed all 50 acts and won $500, money used to reward students who meet or exceed behavioral standards.

Students in Burrillville also impressed the community with participation in “Thankful Thursdays,” a new initiative that has led young scholars in the district to publicly express their gratitude every week.

A third story involving a long-term mission to “pay it forward,” also attracted widespread attention in 2019.

The Share for Shannon movement made the news during the late Shannon Heil’s “heavenly birthday” in July,  when efforts to spread kindness included an annual pizza delivery as a sign of gratitude to the Burrillville Police Department.

The efforts of the “FierceMob,” an army doing good in memory of Heil, who died in a tragic car accident on Route 102 in 2013, also made the news in December. An initiative to help shoppers pay for their groceries around Christmas indirectly helped another group of volunteers to raise $1,400 for the Burrillville Animal Shelter.

NRI NOW will continue to count down the top stories of 2019, calculated primarily by traffic to the website, through the end of the week.

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