January 27

Random acts of kindness preserve Kingfield Montessori founder’s memory

Local and out-of-state participants share kindness through “Spread Some Samshine” Facebook page in memory of Samantha Wright, who was killed in a car wreck Jan. 6.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

KINGFIELD — Last week while Kate Hatfield was downtown, a woman handed her a card with a sunshine logo on it and the address of a Facebook page encouraging random acts of kindness in memory of preschool teacher Samantha Wright.

click image to enlarge

Carrying on: Bethany Mahar, from left, Kate Hatfield and Polly MacMichael laugh over good memories of Samantha Wright at the Maine Mountain Children’s House, a nonprofit Montessori preschool program in Kingfield that Wright founded. Wright was killed in a car accident Jan. 6.

Staff photo by Kaitlin Schroeder

click image to enlarge

Carrying on: Friends of Samantha Wright remember her while gathered at the Maine Mountain Children’s House, which Wright founded. From left to right is Wright’s friend Kate Hatfield, interim director Bethany Mahar and preschool board member Polly MacMichael.

Staff photo by Kaitlin Schroeder

The woman didn’t recognize Hatfield, 59, as the creator of the Spread Some Samshine Facebook page in memory of her friend Wright, who was killed in a car wreck Jan. 6. And for Hatfield, that was fine with her.

“I just love hearing and reading about all the ways people are sharing Samshine,” she said.

Wright, 38, who was married with a young daughter, died at the scene on Route 27 after an oncoming car slid on the ice and struck her van.

Wright grew up in Clinton and was a 1993 graduate of Lawrence High School in Fairfield. She later attended Northeast Montessori Institute in Wenham, Mass., and graduated from Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., in 2006 with a master’s degree in education and a concentration in Montessori schooling, a whole child method of teaching that emphasizes use of materials and activities specially designed to stimulate the intellect.

Hatfield and two of Wright’s former coworkers gathered Saturday at the Maine Mountain Children’s House, a nonprofit Montessori preschool program in Kingfield that Wright founded. Bethany Mahar, 28, a teacher at the preschool, and Polly MacMichael, 34, a board member for the nonprofit, said the movement encapsulates Wright’s desire to spread kindness and teach her students to spread kindness.

“People from the schools will tell us that they can always tell the kids who went to the Montessori school because they stay such a close-knit family,” said Mahar.

Mahar said when Wright would hold a fundraiser for the preschool, she donated some of the money to an outside cause like an animal shelter or a local family in need.

“And she let the kids decide where,” said Mahar. She said they would give the preschoolers a few ideas, and they would vote where to send the money to.

Hatfield said she started the Facebook page after she attended Wright’s memorial service and heard the ways Sam had helped the community.

“It was incredibly sad, but there was also happiness there in the people who were remembering the ways Sam had affected their life,” she said.

The Facebook page was a way for people to continue Wright’s legacy, she said.

“I just left thinking ‘what can we do to put some light out there?’”

Hatfield said she is surprised how fast the movement grew. As of Friday there were more than 3,000 people who joined their Facebook page and more than 15,000 people were invited to join.

The Samshine page was created as a Facebook event, so when people join, the confirmation message says the user is “going to Spread Some Samshine.”

“I wasn’t thinking that was how it would say it, so that was a nice surprise,” Hatfield said.

The group held a day dedicated to random acts of kindness on Jan. 15 and is still encouraging people to do good deeds in her name.

Participants from Kingfield to the West Coast shared stories on the page of paying for every coffee in a coffee shop, donating blood for the first time in years, volunteering at shelters and giving away homemade cookies.

One poster said she felt inspired to give a children’s book to her son’s surgeon after hearing he rushed to the hospital from reading his children a bedtime story to perform the emergency surgery.

MacMichael said it is fitting for her to keep her Samshine acts anonymous, because Wright bettered the community through behind the scenes work and stayed out of the spotlight.

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