Helping & Healing Through Ben’s Bells

Mckenna, Katelyn and Taylor

In a world full of conflict and uncertain pandemic times, kindness is a factor that can sometimes be forgotten. This is what drew us to Ben’s Bells; we wanted to find a charity that was making a difference in an impactful and unique way. Ben’s Bells is a local Tucson charity that focuses on the spreading of genuine kindness in our local Tucson community. This organization’s founder, Jeannette Maré, created this kindness project after the tragic death of her son Ben, who died suddenly right before his third birthday. In an effort to console their grieving friend, those closest to Maré created handmade wind chimes with her in her backyard studio. These were the first “Ben’s Bells.”

We decided to volunteer at the location on University Boulevard to get a feel for what Ben’s Bells is all about. This studio is a short walk from the campus, which made it very convenient. We made our appointment beforehand through their website and checked in at the front desk once we arrived.  The studio had a very homey feeling, filled with the delightful aroma of fresh paint and the chatter of other volunteers who had already arrived.

We each contributed a five dollar donation since Ben’s Bells is a non-profit so these donations help immensely. The front of the studio, which is also where the front desk is located, has a makeshift gift shop filled with painted bells that hanging on windchimes. Each painted bell is different and unique. Being Wildcat fans ourselves, some of the first Bells that caught our eye were the ones that mirrored our team colors. Some even had our favorite phrase Bear Down! intricately painted on them. Others have flowers, cactus, and hearts. Each one has its own distinctive vibrant color pattern. They even have merchandise you could buy that were all Ben’s Bells themed like shirts, water bottles, stickers, your own bell, hats, etc.  

After we were all checked in, a worker then guided us to the back room which had four rounded tables neatly separated in each corner of the room. The tables were ready set up with supplies for us. These supplies consisted of pastel colored acrylic paints, small white clay flowers, three small tiles for paint, and chopsticks. Once all the volunteers had filed in, we were told the story of Ben’s Bells by Taylor Hedges, a studio assistant who was one of the leads during our volunteer experience. 

One brush stroke at a time..

We volunteers were then asked to paint little flowers with either pink or yellow paint. We were told to paint the top, front and sides of the flowers, then place them on individual chopsticks. Each “kindness coin” needed three layers of only one color of paint. To help us keep track, there was a piece of Styrofoam set in front of that was marked into three sections with a marker. Each section of the Styrofoam had holes in it where we could place our chopstick so that the kindness coin could dry before the next layer.

As we painted, the three of us were able to talk and unwind after a hectic class-filled day. In that moment, nothing else mattered but the paints in front of us. With each stroke of paint we began to learn more about each other by talking about hometowns, hobbies, sports, academics, greek life and much more. We ended up creating a beautiful bouquet of kindness coins. The three of us combined painted around 50 flowers and by the time we were done it was hard to leave. 

While painting, we all agreed that we would love to introduce ourselves to the workers that were there that day. It was very clear from the moment we walked through the door that the people who run the day-to-day operations really care about what they do and their hope is that volunteers walk out feeling inspired. We met three studio assistants — Liz Romero, Taylor Hedges, and Anna Burtnett. Each of these women greeted us with kind smiles and were completely open to answer any questions we had.

Reaching beyond Tucson

One thing that makes this organization so special is that it is local. Over time, Ben’s Bells has opened up other locations, but the original workshop started out right here in Tucson.  Liz Romero told us a story about a local Tucson woman who moved to Connecticut and was there during the time of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. This woman had experienced the contagious kindness of this local Tucson organization back home and reached out to them. Connecticut was hurting and she wanted to do what she could to help.

Ben’s Bells in Tucson agreed and felt that the community could really use some kindness. To show kindness and support they sent over 1000 bells to Connecticut.  As it turns out, the community over in Connecticut took this small act of kindness to heart and decided to spread the kindness to others. “They worked with us to open up a sister studio out there”, says Romero. Hearing this story affected all three of us. It felt so empowering hearing this story of  reaching out and helping these people in their time of need.

Kindness comes at no cost

We asked our new friends for a few quotes for this article. Liz Romero said that she simply wants to “inspire people to start practicing intentional acts of kindness every day and integrate it into their everyday lives”. Taylor Hedges, another studio assistant, added that Ben’s Bells strives to “create a safe space where people can feel as if being kind is the easy choice.” 

What started out as a valiant effort to comfort a broken friend, blossomed into the beautiful organization that Tucsonans know today. The intention of Ben’s Bells is to educate and spread awareness about the act of kindness. Acts of kindness are free to give and can make a powerful difference in people’s lives. Ben’s Bells provides us all with an great opportunity to seed love into our growing community.


McKenna Manzo, Katelyn Tobar, and Taylor Bailey are students attending the University of Arizona and the creators of this feature story. McKenna is a freshman and is majoring in Journalism. Katelyn is a sophomore majoring in General Studies with an emphasis in social behavior and human understanding, Taylor is a freshman and is majoring in communication.