As an assistant principal at Carmel High School, part of Karen McDaniel’s job is coordinating student activities and encouraging engagement.
But with school campuses closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that task got a little more difficult.
“As we recognized how hard it was for us adults to not be in school and having our normal routine, we thought that had to be really hard for our young adults, too,” McDaniel said. “So, we wanted to provide opportunities for students and families to engage in emotional and physical well-being activities.”
During brainstorming sessions, others on her team with younger students described activities they were doing that might be fun for high school students, too. They soon realized the value of engaging the entire community and began planning on a wider scale.
Several community partners joined the planning team, including the Carmel police and fire departments, Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation and the City of Carmel. Thus, the Carmel Cares initiative was born. It features five themed weeks with interactive activities designed to build community connections during a time people are required to be physically distant from one another.
The series kicked off April 3 with a virtual fireworks display. The theme for the first week, which was April 3 to 9, was “Color the City with Kindness.” Participants were encouraged to write positive messages with chalk on driveways and sidewalks, decorate homes with lights and banners and paint kindness rocks.
Stonehedge Estates resident Laura Lancaster and her 5-year-old daughter created chalk art in front of their home throughout the week.
“It’s been pretty tough being out of work, things uncertain and stuck at home,” Lancaster said. “Luckily, we have a lot of sidewalk chalk, and we are on a very well-traveled stretch of sidewalk. We love our neighborhood and just wanted to be able to lift some spirits.”
Themes for the following weeks are Age Old Rivals (April 10 to 16), Rev Up Your Creativity (April 17 to 23), Exercise Your Body and Mind (April 24 to 30) and Sheroes and Heroes (May 1-7). McDaniel said the planning team is working to develop additional themed weeks because of the April 2 announcement that schools will be closed through the end of the school year.
Participants can share photos and videos on the Carmel Cares Facebook page and on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #CarmelCares. Look for additional information about each week on the Carmel Cares Facebook page and the City of Carmel website.