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Nashville Catholic School sophomores make and sell bracelets to buy a therapy dog ​​for their peers at the school where a mass shooting took place

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSV News) – Two sophomores at Overbrook Catholic School in Nashville were ‘busy bees’ last month, making 2,500 bead bracelets, and it’s for a very special reason – raising $17,000 to buy therapy dog ​​for students at The Covenant School, where an assailant killed six people including three 9-year-old students on March 27.

“We knew they had been through a lot and we thought it would be good to do something for them,” said Evelyn Thallemer.

Evelyn and her best friend since kindergarten, Matilda Crosswy, have been making bead bracelets together for many years with the help of their moms.

“She came to my house once and we realized we both like beading, so we both made friendship bracelets,” Matilda shared of how they started making bracelets together. “We’ve been making them ever since.”

It’s one of 2,500 bracelets made and sold by best friends Evelyn Thallemer and Matilda Crosswy, sophomores at Overbrook Catholic School in Nashville, Tennessee, to raise money to buy a dog from therapy for The Covenant School, also in Nashville, where a mass shooting took place on March 27, 2023. The bracelets feature six heart-shaped beads to represent the six victims of the shooting, including three 9-year-old children. (Photo OSV News/Katie Peterson, Tennessee Registry)

“We both love nifty things,” Evelyn added.

Realizing the shared love, they always talked about starting a business to earn extra money. But when the tragic shooting at The Covenant School happened, they knew they had to use their talents for something bigger, and they called it “Nashville Busy Beads.”

Knowing how much therapy dogs have helped in their own school, the girls thought it would be a great addition for Covenant students.

“I think it’s important that they get that extra love and attention when they need it” from a therapy dog, Evelyn told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.

“I love when therapy dogs come to our school because they just make you happy,” Matilda added. “They’re trained to protect us, so with the things that happened in Covenant, we thought it would be good for them.”

Overbrook Catholic School counselor Anh Kohls also thought the therapy dog ​​was a great idea, noting how the program has also benefited students at Overbrook.

“The therapy dogs bring so much joy and laughter to our students. Plus, they have a way of making a space safe, allowing our students to process and manage their feelings in a healthy way,” Kohls explained. “A therapy dog ​​will be a wonderful companion for students at The Covenant School. As they have for our school, they will provide unconditional love and non-judgmental support to students.

“The mere presence of a therapy dog ​​will remind them that they are loved, cared for and never alone,” she concluded, “which is so crucial during this season of healing.”

After it was confirmed that The Covenant School also liked the idea, the girls got to work, making around 2,500 bead bracelets with the help of their friends. Each bracelet, available in adult and child sizes, featured six heart-shaped beads in honor of the six lives lost in a school shooting.

After creating promotional videos for social media to promote the bracelets, orders quickly poured in as the posts began to go viral and even caught the attention of “Good Morning Nashville” on WKRN News Channel 2. weeks alone, the girls not only hit their goal of $17,000, but nearly doubled it, earning around $30,500.

Thanks to all their hard work, a golden retriever puppy, provided by Comfort Connections, was delivered to The Covenant School on May 23 and will be undergoing training over the summer months.

Comfort Connections has previously supported the Covenant School by sharing therapy dogs with them. With the $17,000 donation made to Comfort Connections, they will now have one of their own. As for the other $13,500, “we’ll let Covenant decide what they want to do,” Matilda said, because it adds to the school’s growth fund.

Overbrook Catholic leaders said they were proud of the girls for taking the initiative to do what they did.

“It warmed my heart that in the midst of tragedy, our students were looking for a way to make a difference,” said Dominican Sister Marie Blanchette, principal of Overbrook Catholic. “They had a lot of fun making the bracelets and are excited to see the fruits of their labor.”

“It was just a very beautiful thing to see that they would do this and then to see the change in the kids doing it,” added Jennifer Rafoth, the girls’ second-grade teacher, noting how her class had anxiety after the shooting, since several of the students are friends with Covenant students.

“These two girls in particular had a lot of anxiety and sadness about it, but when they started doing something for Covenant, it completely changed their behavior,” Rafoth explained. “They weren’t so focused on their anxieties anymore, but turned outward to help the children of Covenant.”

Kohls said the girls’ actions were a prime example of the social-emotional program, now officially known as FRIENDZY, that the school implemented.

“As a Catholic school, we care about the whole child: body, mind and emotions. Virtue has always been at the forefront of teaching at Overbrook Catholic School, where students learn through study, prayer, community and service,” Kohls explained. “These pillars are deeply connected to the culture of the school, where students are continually looking for ways to be good citizens and give back to their community.

“In the same way, FRIENDZY also encourages students to reach their full potential in a spiritual way. This school-wide social-emotional learning program is intentionally designed to teach students skills through the lens of Scriptures,” she continued. “Composed of eight units, FRIENDZY teaches students lifelong skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and social skills.”

One of FRIENDZY’s very first lessons is about empathy for others, something Kohls said Evelyn and Matilda showed with their project.

“At this age, children have a natural desire to help others. FRIENDZY’s lessons are designed with this in mind, engaging students in deep conversations about compassion, empathy and perspective,” she said. “I believe the girls were eager to do something nice and give back to their community. This initiative is such a powerful example of how a single act of kindness, no matter how big or small, can create a ripple effect.

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