FAIRFIELD — From as simple an act as giving a family member a “long hug” to taking the time to write a thank you note to a veteran or a school bus driver, several town schools are challenging students to scatter some kindness this week. A sweet treat may be in store for kids that do a dozen things to spread some smiles.

As part of Random Acts of Kindness Week — running Feb. 12-18 this year — teachers at several town elementary schools and one middle school handed out an acts of kindness BINGO-style card, challenging their students to complete 11 specific kind acts and one of their own choosing.

If a student completes the board, Fairfield’s Saugatuck Sweets will offer them a free soft serve ice cream cone. And for each ice cream voucher used, store owner Al DiGuido will donate $1 to Bridgeport Rescue Mission, paying the kindness forward through the poverty-fighting charity.

Among a number of school programs to celebrate kindness this week, the activity is being organized by Kindness Matters, a movement centered at North Stratfield Elementary School that is embracing a “Scatter Kindness” theme this year for its Random Acts of Kindness Week programming.

“I hope that it reminds kids that everything that they say and do makes a difference,” said Veronica Mollica, Kindness Matters founder, and North Stratfield parent. “When you hurt somebody else, you hurt yourself,” is at the core of the group’s message, she added, along with letting kids know building someone else up is the way to make both others and themselves feel good.

McKinley, Stratfield, Jennings and Mill Hill elementary schools and Fairfield Woods Middle School will join North Stratfield with the BINGO-style activity this week. But Kindness Matters, operating at North Stratfield for about five years, helps develop a full slate of activities for students at the school annually.

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Schools participating in Kindness Matters BINGO-style activity

Fairfield Woods Middle School

Jennings Elementary School

McKinley Elementary School

Mill Hill Elementary School

North Stratfield Elementary School

Stratfield Elementary School

According to Kindness Matters founder Veronica Mollica

Adding additional schools to its programming is part of the organization’s mission to eventually help coordinate similar events at all town public schools for Random Acts of Kindness Week.

Independent events are also running at some other public schools, and Superintendent Toni Jones said the town’s PTA has worked to connect students with acts of kindness, efforts centered on giving back and gratitude and ingraining those messages in students’ educations.

At North Stratfield, Kindness Matters founder Veronica Mollica worked with fellow North Stratfield parents and the school’s PTA to launch programming at the school several years ago, when her son was in first grade. She wanted to use proactive language centered around inclusivity and kindness to combat concerns like bullying.

Mollica’s message for students goes beyond a surface-level “be kind” instruction. Ultimately, she hopes kids can celebrate each other’s differences and embrace the ways they themselves are unique.

“At the deepest level my hope is for kids to feel comfortable being who they are and not feeling like they have to put on a mask or be a certain way to fit in,” she said, “to really own who they are and feel comfortable expressing themselves in different ways, and really pursuing things that feel good to them instead of looking outside of themselves for ways to feel normal.”

North Stratfield is running events coordinated by Kindness Matters all week, among them a kindness assembly, coordinated thank you note writing for bus drivers and custodians and homemade muffins distributed to bus drivers. Because there is no school Friday, the event that usually ties up the week’s events for North Stratfield — a scavenger hunt of caring gestures — will be distributed for students to do on their own time with friends.

“Celebrate your uniqueness,” Mollica said of her message to kids. “You’re loved and accepted exactly as you are.”

lweiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16