Students at FishHawk Creek Elementary School painted kindness rocks last month and distributed them to veterans at Tampa’s James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.

Students from FishHawk Creek Elementary (FHCE) School brought a smile to hundreds of faces last month. All of the school’s 1,100 students painted kindness rocks and gave them to veterans at Tampa’s James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital as part of their annual kindness project.

According to FHCE PTA President Jamie Martin, the school coordinates a community service project every year around 9/11 to help teach the students the importance of giving back. The PTA president is responsible for choosing the project and Martin, whose father is a veteran, picked something close to her heart that also made a big impact on the students.

“We use the project as a way to help the children learn about the heroism that came from 9/11,” said Martin. “Once we decided to have the kids paint kindness rocks, it was a natural jump to focus on giving them to veterans, especially as our school has a large military population.”

The students each painted a rock at school in early September and soon after, members of the Military Kids Club traveled to the hospital to distribute them to patients and visitors.

“It was so moving to see how something as small as a rock totally changed people’s day,” said Martin, who explained that the students gave out around 500 rocks to veterans at the hospital and placed 300 others around the building and its grounds. “One of the veterans even took the students on a walk and showed them how to stack rocks. They all smiled while they were talking to the kids. It was so heartwarming to see.”

The school also used the painting of the rocks as a lesson on giving.

“We wanted to make sure they learned how it feels to be able to contribute to the community,” said Martin. “Some of the kids wondered why they couldn’t keep the rocks that they painted and we made sure to tell them that their rock would bring a smile to someone who might really need it.”

Additional rocks will be given out at the school’s Veterans Day Program and some will be kept for FHCE’s outdoor classroom and butterfly garden.

FishHawk Creek Elementary School is located at 16815 Dorman Rd. in Lithia and can be reached at 651-2150.