TUCSON, Ariz. -- A Tucson woman's life changed forever when her child died right in front of her eyes. A cold and cough that didn't seem serious turned deadly when her son's airway swelled shut.
It would be random acts of kindness that would give this mother the strength to survive and why she's helping others with Ben's Bells.
“He died right before my eyes and my family was thrown into a grief we could have never fathomed,” Jeannette Mare said.
It's been 10 years since Mare lost her 2-year-old son, Ben.
“Most of the time I didn't even want to survive,” Mare said. “But I knew I had to because I had another son who was almost 6 at the time.”
The smile of a stranger and other random acts of kindness helped Mare’s family during some of their toughest times.
“We wanted to do something in Ben's memory and draw more attention to how much potential we do have to make a real and significant difference in our communities,” Mare said.
And so, the idea of Ben's Bells was born.
“They're special because the pieces of them are made with clay,” Mare said. “So by the time one is put together at least 10 different people have worked on it. So they literally represent community coming together. “
A community of young and old bring the bells to life, but making them is just the beginning of the story.
"We hang them randomly in public places for people just to find and they have this tag that says, 'You have found a Ben’s Bell, take it home and remember to spread kindness,'” Mare said. “For us it was about Ben and for others, who found a bell, it was about what they were going through.”
By the first anniversary of Ben's death, 400 bells had inspired kindness. Today, there are more than 25,000 across the country.
“We always say the bell sort of finds the person it needs to find, but we have story after story and every single one is incredible,” Mare said.
It’s a bell that has taken on a life of its own.
“Because of this increased energy, and excitement about the program, we'll be opening up a studio in Phoenix in the next few months,” Mare said.
It’s just another sign of the many more people that will be helped in their time of need.
“This is one of those things that never goes away,” Mare said. “Sort of after you accept that, rather that, you learn to carry it with greater strength."
For more information on Ben’s Bells' two studios in Tucson and the one coming to Phoenix, log on to www.bensbells.org.