Jeannette Mare, founder and executive director of Ben’s Bells Project, flew in a Hometown Hero flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, April 11.
After 11 years of service, Mare was awarded the Hometown Hero Award for the resilience she displayed following a personal tragedy.
“I was completely shocked, because it is quite an honor to be nominated for this award and I’m just humbled by it,” said Mare.
Following the loss of her 3-year-old son, Ben, Mare found it hard to cope with life.
“I was just so devastated after his death, I didn’t know how I could continue living,” said Mare.
While mourning the passing of her son, she started recognizing the power of kindness, which would later give her the idea to start the Ben’s Bells Project.
The Project’s mission is to inspire, educate and motivate each other to realize the impact of intentional kindness and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby changing the world for the better.
“These acts of kindness is what kept me alive after Ben’s passing, just the little things like someone holding the door for me, it just meant,” said Mare. “The project is in celebration of Ben’s life and I am so overwhelmed by the success of it.”
The Ben’s Bells Project also teaches everyone that even the little acts of kindness can mean so much to someone else, which later got her nominated by Martha Damek, a school counselor.
“[Jeannette] is reaching out to make the world a better place to live,” said Damek. “Her passion of spreading “acts of kindness” is not limited to any age, gender, or race.”
Mare has learned that kindness is not something a person is born with or without. It is a skillset that can be learned over time. She has been working and studying with University of Arizona professors about this skillset and how she can help educate others.
As a result of winning the Hometown Hero Award, Mare was selected by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds to fly with them in an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“It was awesome, in every sense of the word,” said Mare. “It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful to have had this privilege!”