Lankershim Elementary School students spent one of their last days of the school year creating Stars of Hope designed to spread hope and encouragement to communities hit by disaster.
Led by a partnership with Lynn Hildebrand of the San Bernardino Valley Humane Society Shawn Ponzler’s fourth- and fifth-grade class painted 17 wooden stars with brightly colored messages of hope for Stars of Hope, a national “pay it forward” organization.
The organization, created by New York families as a “pay it forward” thank you for the outpouring of love and support sent to New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, collects the stars and distributes them in communities that have experienced natural and man-made disasters.
Hildebrand became aware of the effort the days following the Inland Regional Center mass shooting of Dec. 2, 2015.
“The humane society is not too far from the regional center,” Hildebrand said. “I would drive by and just sit in my car and sometimes walk around and not be able to understand why someone could kill all those innocent people and take moms and dads from children, how there could be so much hate. One day I saw stars on the fence and blowing in the trees. I remember holding it my hand and you could tell it was made by a child.”
Reading the back of the stars Hildebrand learned that the stars came from Canada and New York, and she became involved.
“The whole concept works perfectly with humane education,” she said.
In the past few years classes from Thompson, Emmerton, Cypress and Bing Wong elementary schools painted Stars of Hope, paying it forward for the stars San Bernardino community received after Dec. 2 and the North Park Elementary School shooting in 2017.
“I like the level of empathy that fills the classroom as the kids work together to create the stars and that they know they’re doing something that’s going to help others,” she said.
It also teaches the children that they can make a difference with their lives, she added.
"Lynn Hildebrand is a saint,” said Stars of Hope Executive Director Jeff Parness. “From the very first time she drove by the site of the San Bernardino terror attack and took the time to read the Stars of Hope and messages of compassion from people around the world, Lynn took this therapeutic arts program directly into her heart. Every single day she finds ways to reflect and magnify the light of Stars of Hope and touch the lives of people near and far who find meaning in creating the stars for others and who receive the emotional boost when needed the most."