Sixty-five Shell Scotford employees were up before dawn on Tuesday bringing some surprise inspiration to local students, parents and teachers on the first day back to class.
The top-secret mission started at 6 a.m. with 13 teams of volunteers armed with colourful chalk and words of kindness heading to 23 schools in Fort Saskatchewan, Sherwood Park and Bruderheim.
“We left positive messages on the sidewalks in front of every elementary school,” said Conal MacMillan, external relations advisor at Shell Scotford. “Just to help the kids start off their school year in a positive and bright way.”
The teams met ahead of time to decide what to write.
“It ranged from 'have a great year' to some Dr. Seuss lines, to 'make the future' to 'fuelling kindness' to 'you are the future,'" MacMillan said.
The goal, MacMillan added, is to give young students, some of them first-timers, a bit of a confidence boost as they walk up to school doors after a long summer off.
“But instead of seeing the school, they see these bright colours on the ground, and it gives them a little bit of ease, puts a smile on their face.”
Parents get a boost as well, MacMillan said, seeing other members of the community rooting for their children.
The Shell volunteers were long gone from school grounds by the time morning drop-off started, but MacMillan did have a chance to see some teachers react to the upbeat sidewalk messages.
"I just left one of the schools and there were two teachers who were walking in and they had tears in their eyes. And certainly it made an impact on them."
Tuesday’s mission marked Shell Scotford's second year in a row of back-to-school sidewalk writing. The stealth messages are part of the company's #FuellingKindness initiative, a program Shell Scotford started four years ago as a way to give back to the community.
“It's just about random acts of kindness and trying to foster kindness as something that should be valued and is important in our communities,” MacMillan said.
Fuelling Kindness is now a nationwide initiative at Shell.