These kindergarteners surprised their school's deaf custodian by signing the entire 'Happy Birthday' song.

A big group of kindergartners doing anything in unison tends to be sweet, but this video takes the cake.

A school community is made up of much more than just students and teachers. From lunch servers to janitors, people who help keep schools running smoothly are important. And they can have a much bigger impact on kids than we often acknowledge.

The students and faculty at Hickerson Elementary School in Tennessee have a special relationship with their custodian, Anthony James. The joyful janitor known as "Mr. James" has been with the Coffee County School District since 1991, and had been working at Hickerson for 15 years. Those who know him describe him as "sweet," "selfless," and "always smiling."


For his 60th birthday, the kindergarteners sung—and signed—the Happy Birthday song for Mr. James.

Mr. James is hearing impaired. So kindergarten classes taught by Mrs. Allyssa Hartsfield and Mrs. Amy Hershman learned how to sign the words to the Happy Birthday song to surprise him. And surprise him they did.

The school shared the video on Facebook, and people are loving it:

Our Kindergarten classes learned how to sign Happy Birthday for Mr. James' birthday today. He was so surprised! 💛🖤💛🖤

Posted by Hickerson Elementary on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Teaching kids to honor differences and appreciate every member of a community is a beautiful thing.

The video has struck a chord with alumni of Coffee County Schools and people everywhere. As the alumni sharing their memories of Mr. James in the Facebook comments attest, the dedicated custodian is simply receiving a dose of the joy and kindness he has spent decades spreading himself. It's clear that the love between Mr. James and the students in that community is mutual.

But the clip also shows how a simple gesture can mean so much to someone who communicates in a different way. The reaction of Mr. James to the students' surprise couldn't be more delightful, and those kids have now learned first-hand what a difference learning someone's language can make. What a wonderful gift to give someone who has given so much to so many kids for so long.

Happy Birthday to you, Mr. James!

True

When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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