CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Virginia Groce, 10, asked for donations for the animal shelter instead of presents for her birthday. She also cut her long, dark hair to help make wigs for cancer patients.
Jeremiah Patterson, 11, has been making new friends and reaching out to classmates he didn't before.
Both Groce and Patterson are in Kim Landers' fifth grade class at Piedmont Elementary learning about the Pay It Forward movement.
Last Thursday, the students celebrated Pay It Forward Day, a holiday celebrated in more than 50 countries that focuses on the effect good deeds and selflessness can have on the world.
It's because of the students in Landers' class last year that West Virginia is now a Pay It Forward state. Those students wrote a letter to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asking him to make it official.
"Just because we're only in the fifth grade doesn't mean we can't make a difference. We can do as much as we could if we were grown up -- except maybe ride the bigger roller coasters," Groce said.
On Thursday, First Lady Joanne Tomblin visited Piedmont, a few blocks from the state Capitol on Charleston's East End, to congratulate the students on their work to make West Virginia a Pay It Forward state, and encouraged them to achieve acts of kindness every day.
"Don't ever stop -- just keep going. You're learning at a young age how important it is to our state. There are people in need in our state," she told fifth graders. "Paying it forward means it comes from your heart. It's not always about giving money. Everyone in this world can be kind. Think if everyone did a kind deed every day what a wonderful world it would be."
Landers based the class's lessons on the book "Pay It Forward" by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which follows a young boy who does good deeds and urges others to do the same as part of a school project.
"They understand that the bottom line is that it's not about doing something to get something in return. They know that the idea is to do something for somebody hoping that person will do something good for another person," Landers said. "Kind deeds are like a domino effect. I always tell them you never know who's watching you and what influence your good deed may be on someone else."
Caroline Weintraub, 11, painted a flowerpot to give Tomblin on Thursday and said she has more plans to pay it forward in the future.
"That's why I want to be a lawyer when I grow up because my dad is and because it's really interesting, and I can help all of the citizens," she said.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.