Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 23, 2014

Acts of kindness add warmth in dead of winter

The Andover Townsman

---- — Out of the cold, harsh days of winter grew several acts of kindness and support in Andover in the last week. And what was most heartwarming to see is they crossed diverse sectors.

Last Friday, Andover High School students showered one of the most under-appreciated groups of employees with some well-earned gratitude. The students surprised the cafeteria and nutrition services workers by making them kings and queens for the day — complete with their own handmade crowns.

The tribute grew out of a journalism class assignment in which students were tasked with devising a public relations campaign for a school organization or program whose work often goes unrecognized. Senior Alexa Rockwell didn’t give it a second thought when she and classmate Eliana Kafantis decided to throw their energies behind the nutrition staff by organizing a Cafeteria Workers Appreciation Day.

What was probably the best aspect of the day was the notes of thanks penned by students to the lunchroom staff. One male student perhaps spoke for many when he wrote, “I’m sorry for heckling you all the time. It’s out of love. Thank you.”

On Friday, the heckling ceased, for one day anyway. But we have a feeling there might be a little less of it occurring in the days to come. And for that, Alexa and Eliana deserve an “A” for their assignment.

The community of greater Andover also came out to show their support for an Andover grandmother, Tina Habeeb, whose 44-year-old daughter — the mother of three young children — is in a battle for her life. Cathy Habeeb Sheehan was diagnosed last year with acute myeloid leukemia. She’s in need of a stem cell transplant to survive. There currently is no match in the national registry for Sheehan.

So, Habeeb did what all mothers would do. She pulled together a “Be The Match” bone marrow and stem cell drive at Latitude Sports Club in Methuen. Similar drives typical draw 70 people. More than 100 people showed up for this one, with individuals having to be turned away because organizers couldn’t accommodate them all in the two-hour allotted time period.

Among those who came was one of Habeeb’s neighbors. She didn’t know Habeeb, but has seen her walking in the neighborhood. When she read the story about Habeeb’s daughter in The Townsman’s sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune, she knew she had to offer herself as a potential match for Sheehan or anyone else battling leukemia.

Another drive is set for Feb. 1 in Andover at Minuteman Park in Brickstone Square. Organizers have set aside four hours this time around to accommodate what they expect will be another large turnout. We have no doubt the Andover community will not let them down.

The outpouring of love and support for the Ritzer family since the senseless death of their daughter and sister, Colleen, back in October has been well documented. This week, things turned poignant once again between two communities equally touched by the tragedy,

Members of the Andover and Beverly/Danvers girls varsity hockey teams donned pink and white jerseys bearing Ritzer’s name for their game on Monday night at Phillips Academy. They swapped out their regular skate laces for pink ones. They wrapped their pads in pink tape and wore touches of pink elsewhere.

And just as the field hockey teams from both Andover and Danvers High did last fall when they took to the playing field for a game in Colleen Ritzer’s memory, the hockey teams made the same gesture in a tribute on the ice.

The display of pink, Colleen’s favorite color, must have been especially emotional for Laura Ritzer — Colleen’s younger sister who is a tri-captain of the Andover team. It’s hard to imagine what life has been like for Laura in the last three months. But I’m sure the strength she has received from her friends and community has provided comfort during her most painful times.

Lastly, we can’t forget 10-year-old Danielle Seifer. The Andover girl fell in love with the horses at Windrush Farm in North Andover and the therapeutic work it does with children and adults with disabilities. So Danielle decided to return her birthday present from her mother — a coveted American Girl Doll — plus the proceeds from the sale of bracelets she handmade — and donate the $210 to support the horses.

What a powerful gesture from a girl who appears wise beyond her years.