Ameema Ahmed

Be kind. The message is simple. And at the Ben’s Bells Project, it’s the driving force behind what the organization does every day.  

“I think [it’s important] even more so now, because there is so much negativity in the world and there are so many things going on,” says Helen Gomez, executive director at Ben’s Bells. “I think we often forget to look at things through a kind lens.”

Founder and “chief kindness officer” Jeannette Maré started the project in memory of her young son Ben, who died from a sudden illness on March 29, 2002. The tragedy took a toll on the entire family, and the kindness of friends and strangers helped Jeannette, her husband, Dean, and their other son, Matthew, pull through those tough times.

“Whether it was opening a door for her, or letting her in traffic, or just asking how she was, she realized how important that was,” Gomez says.

As they adjusted to life without Ben, the Maré family wanted a way to keep spreading the kindness they experienced. The family came up with a design for bells that would distribute a special message to those who found them. Ben’s Bells are ceramic wind chimes that are handmade by members of the community. Each chime includes a ceramic centerpiece, beads, string and a bell. And each is a group effort, having been touched by at least 10 people in the process of making it.

“By the time these things go out into the universe, there’s been a lot of love and care that has gone into each bell,” Gomez says.

The bells are hung in random places across Arizona and accompanied by a message that includes the story behind them and a reminder to be kind. As people find them, they can keep the bells or continue to distribute them in other places. Ben’s Bells have been found across the country and even overseas. 

The powerful message is also spread through other means, including bright green “Be Kind” stickers that you might see on car bumpers and water bottles.

Ben’s Bells has studios in Tucson, Phoenix and Connecticut. Each studio offers volunteers of all ages the opportunity to come in and make bells. The studios also host groups for team-building activities and events, and Maré and her team hold speaking events at schools to help kids learn the importance of kindness.

“It’s such an important skill that people need to practice every day,” Gomez says. “You’re not always going to be great at it, but the fact that you continually try to improve at being kind … that’s what’s most important.”

Ben’s Bells Project
40 W. Broadway Boulevard