VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — If there's one thing Brooks Jolly has learned in fifth grade, it's that a small act of kindness can make a big difference.
Over the past few weeks, he and his classmates at Star of the Sea Catholic School in Virginia Beach have been making the world a better place while raising some money.
The initiative started in the classroom with teachers handing out "kindness coins."
Kate Olkowski, an eighth grader, said, "[Kindness coins] are small little coins that have an inspirational quote on it, and the teachers would give them out through a surprise when a student did a good deed for one another, like held the door or wiped the board down for someone."
Principal Carey Averill said soon the whole school caught on. Teachers were helping teachers and students were giving back to other students.
Averill said, "Once they saw that they were being recognized for their acts of kindness, that's when it really took off. And then the parents started sending me pictures of what all of their kiddos were doing at home."
Jolly said he began taking out the trash, scooping the dog's poop and doing the dishes. Olkowski did much of the same and even helped her parents polish the floors.
It may not have always been fun, but both kids said it was worth it.
Students throughout the school registered on Raise Craze, an online platform where students create a username and request donations via email. The more emails students would send out, the more incentives they would receive.
Averill said, "Say if you sent 10 emails out, you could receive a coupon for a dress-down day or you could receive a coupon to wear nail polish because that's always a big deal in Catholic school."
Students who were registered would then post their acts of kindness online, and people in the community were able to make a donation.
The more good deeds they did, the more dough they drew in. Kids did everything from writing letters to military members, creating cards for people living in nursing homes, decorating kindness rocks and leaving motivational messages in sidewalk chalk.
In just a few weeks, they raised $24,000, surpassing their original goal of $5,000.
"I was in shock. I was like, 'Holy moly.' I started to do this a couple days ago. I'm so, like, happy," Jolly said.
Kindergarten teacher Lisa Ramsey said the school has done fundraisers before, "but what was different about this one was that every child had the opportunity to do a kind act for someone else. Being Catholic, the virtue of kindness is an important part of our faith, and so I think the kids realize how much their actions affect others."
As with all fundraisers, the money is going directly back to the students. Averill said it will be used for school improvements, like more picnic tables so teachers can hold class outside and other classroom supplies.
This story was originally published by Erin Miller at WTKR.