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Kids offer, hope, encouragement and life advice on Happiness Hotline

By Deborah Wilber - | Jun 2, 2022

Getty Images, Digital Vision

Five children (8-11) standing on giant chess board, smiling, portrait

ROY — Heartwarming and uplifting messages from children are just a phone call away thanks to the Happiness Hotline.

With the help of Roy High School visual arts teacher T.J. Bean, Rod Belnap, Weber School District director of career and technical education, created the program after hearing about a similar project at a school in California.

The Happiness Hotline can be reached at 833-88-HAPPY (833 884-2779).

Bean and Belnap worked to bring the mental health resource together this spring. “Rod Belnap was the mastermind behind it all,” Bean said.

Elementary schools close to Roy and Fremont high schools were chosen to participate in the project. Children who were thought of being best at sharing positive messages were chosen by the schools.

Bean said he interviewed 80 kids for the project with enough “happiness” for two or three hotlines.

Kindergartners and first-graders from Farr West, Hooper, Lakeview, North Park, Municipal, West Haven, Midland and Pioneer schools share encouragement, life advice, jokes and words of wisdom.

“Kids are caring, encouraging, full of hope and very honest,” Belnap said in referencing a book by Robert Fulghum, “Everything I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten,” which talks about simple and timeless truths learned from kids.

Active since April 29, the Happiness Hotline has received more than 2,000 calls. According to Bean, quite a few callers spent multiple minutes listening to different sections.

Coworkers of Bean’s from Roy High School have called the hotline for a “pick-me-up.”

One piece of advice offered: If you do something wrong, don’t worry, just restart and be calm. “It’s just such a positive message of, hey, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t get it right, calm yourself and try again,” Bean said.

Informed they were going to be making people happy with cheerful messages, kids were eager to be filmed as well as being helpful.

Bean received a high rate of permission slip returns from parents for children to participate in filmed interviews. Ezequiel from Midland Elementary was so excited, Bean said, all the boy could think about was if his grandma in Mexico was going to see the interview.

“Students who were filmed for the project were awesome and need to be recognized,” Bean said. “Even the ones who were nervous and may not have made the final product.”

Roy High School students in Bean’s classes, as well as students in Jaymee Barrowes’ child development classes, also were credited with making the project possible.

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