The Nicest Place in West Virginia: B.A.R.K. Club at Doddridge County High School

"Bulldog Acts of Random Kindness"

A student club is making it their mission to make high school a friendlier place for kids who could use an ally.

High school can be a pretty mean place, but when the kids of Doddridge County High’s B.A.R.K. club are on the prowl, it’s a lot nicer. The club, whose acronym stands for Bulldogs Acts of Random Kindness, is like others across the country, but the creativity and impact this club has are something special.

When a local boy was diagnosed with cancer and said all he wanted to cheer him up was some Christmas cards, B.A.R.K. mailed him a box with 150 signed greeting cards inside. Not wanting any of their holiday spirit to go to waste, they also made cards for residents of the local nursing home and sent them along with candy canes.

“There are only about 15 students that are really active in the club and make all of this happen,” says Jessica Berkey, a Spanish teacher at the school and the club’s advisor. ”They’re a great group of kids.”

And busy. In January, they celebrated Law Enforcement Appreciation Day by giving Life Savers to all the police the county. They celebrated School Board Appreciation Month by taking doughnuts to a board meeting.

Perhaps the most special of all of the club’s good deeds was when it heard a student at a rival school had been diagnosed with cancer.

“The club created a poster that every student in our school signed because we played them in basketball that week. At the game, we collected donations for the family,” Berkey says.

The donations were much appreciated and the poster now hangs in the kid’s bedroom.

“We were in a very desperate situation and I hadn’t even had time to worry about it yet before the B.A.R.K. club jumped to the rescue,” says Missy Jones, the boy’s mother. “My son just kept saying with a grin and disbelief, ‘I just can’t believe that they did this!’ and ‘I don’t even know them and they care about what happens to me!’”

Next year, the club plans on doing even more to help lift the spirits of folks in the rural county of only 8,000 souls.

“The kids have decided to recognize every student’s birthday in some way next year,” says Berkey. “They also plan to have premade paw print cards and suckers ready to hand out to anyone who might look like they need to be cheered up.”

Remember high school? They’re going to need a lot of cards and candy. If anyone can do it, the B.A.R.K. club can.

—The Editors

The Nomination

The BARK Club (Bulldog Acts of Random Kindness) is a High School club that performed 50 random acts of kindness activities in the school and community during the 2018/2019 school year.

B.A.R.K. Club at Doddridge County High School west virginia nicest placeCourtesy Jessica Berkey
Students of the B.A.R.K. club make it their business to spread kindness.

This club completed random acts of kindness throughout the school year. During October, we recognized the school custodians with posters. The club made motivational treat bags for football, cheerleading, cross country, band, and volleyball. This continued through the state semi final playoff game for the football team. For Halloween, every student received a ghost lollipop. In November, the club made treat bags for our Veteran’s Day Assembly and printed word clouds for them with words every student provided on a survey about what a veteran means to them. At Thanksgiving, the club invited teachers to join their students in the cafeteria for thanksgiving lunch. All students received a Thanksgiving treat bag. The club participated in the “You Matter Marathon” and passed out you matter cards. At Christmas, the club learned of a boy from our state with Cancer who wanted Christmas cards, so we sent him a box full of about 150. We made cards for the local nursing home and sent them with candy canes. Every student received a candy cane with a note of holiday wishes. In January, we celebrated law enforcement appreciation day by giving lifesavers to our PROs and all police that serve in our county. The club celebrated school board appreciation month by taking doughnuts to a board meeting. We “doughnut” know what we would do without them!

B.A.R.K. Club at Doddridge County High School west virginia nicest placeCourtesy Jessica Berkey
Positive motivation is a big part of the group’s work.

Students received snowflakes with positive quotes and gave them to others creating a blizzard of kindness. February brought us school counselor appreciation week where we celebrated the fact that they always help us turn lemons into lemonade. Students received positive fortune cookies from the club for Chinese New Year. During Random Acts of kindness week, the club hosted a spirit week. Monday was superhero day. Tuesday was brighten someone’s day. Wednesday was good teammate day. Thursday was spread the love day, and Friday was we are family day. Each day at lunch students wrote notes dealing with the themes to teachers and classmates and they were delivered to them at the end of the day.

B.A.R.K. Club at Doddridge County High School west virginia nicest placeCourtesy Jessica Berkey
Hundreds of handwritten notes of warm wishes and positive reinforcement are hallmarks of B.A.R.K. club.
B.A.R.K. Club at Doddridge County High School west virginia nicest placeCourtesy Jessica Berkey
It’s sweet to be so nice.

During that week we learned that a student from our rival school was diagnosed with cancer. The club created a poster that every student in our school signed because we played them in basketball that week. At the game donations were collected for the family. In March we celebrated the school’s cooks. All students received candy and a wish of luck for St. Patrick’s Day. In April, the club hosted a kindness Easter egg hunt. The eggs were filled with positive quotes. In May our secretaries, principals, and superintendent received appreciation candy posters. The bus drivers were recognized for their extra effort and miles along with the school nurses. During teacher appreciation week, the club recognized teacher effort every day with notes and at the end of the week awards and cards from students. The club made candy diplomas for our seniors and good luck treats for our track teams at states. The school hosted a step up day for next years freshmen and the club gave them candy and a note of excitement for them to join us. Finally we ended the year with a note for every student that it’s a wrap and a jolly rancher.