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.
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 âwhat 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.
Her low-key personality shows in the history of the preschool, which was founded by Wright eight years ago and first held in the basement of the United Methodist Church.
“Sam was a very fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. If it worked, it did. If it didn’t, then she still made things work,” said MacMichael.
The school has grown since then and offers an after-school program for grade schoolers.
Mahar said she can see Wright’s practical and kind personality in students that have graduated from the school who repeat phrases and continue practices learned at the school.
She said she heard Wright’s teachings about listening when a child who attended the preschool was at a recent gathering with her friends.
“You know how a group of women getting together can get loud, and he kept running around saying âOnly one person talking at a time!'” she said.
Mahar and MacMichael said Wright’s goal was to keep the school affordable and accessible through fundraisers.
“Let’s just say she never made any money from the school,” said MacMichael.
They said residents have asked since the accident how they can help the school, and a fundraiser will be held for the school at the Rack BBQ at Sugarloaf at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16.
“There will be live music and a live auction. We’re hoping to get face painting and other fun stuff. It will be very Sam-ish,” MacMichael said.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 [email protected]