Healdsburg, CA

Kids’ Advice Hotline Spreads Smiles, Laughter, and Love

Tracy Stengel

Saeed Karimi/Unsplash

After endless news reports of the pandemic, natural disasters, and the war in Ukraine, many folks need a ray of sunshine to brighten their days. Sometimes it’s the little things that can bring out a smile, in this case it’s the little ones.

On February 26, 2022, the students of West Side Elementary School in Healdsburg, California launched their “Peptoc Hotline.” The K — 6th grade students prerecorded messages of hope, love, encouragements, and advice. Within days, the hotline was receiving hundreds of calls an hour. Soon, the hotline went viral and there were over 10,000 calls within an hour.
Overwhelmed, the service crashed, and a new number was created. Now, both numbers are active and the call volume continues to increase.

Those who dial 707-998-8410 or 707-8PEPTOC (707-873-7862) will be instructed by a child’s voice to press 1 if you’re feeling mad frustrated or nervous. Press 2 if you need life advice or encouragement. Press 3 for a pep talk from kindergartners. If you want to hear children laughing and squealing with delight, press 4. For words of encouragement spoken in Spanish, press 5.
The words of wisdom coming from the mouths of babes is adorable and varies from, “Dude, live it up!” to “You are okay!” and my personal favorite, “If you’re feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs.” Yeah, I’m going to do that. I feel the corners of my mouth pulling up already.

It began with an art project where the kids made fliers offering encouraging messages with pull-off tabs at the bottom that people could tear off and keep. Who doesn’t want to receive a message saying, “You rock!” or “Keep on trying!” The students posted the fliers throughout their rural, small town.

Then, Jessica Martin asked her fellow artist and educator Asherah Weiss to collaborate on a project that would teach empathy. Both teachers asked all their students what they would say to someone that needed some cheering up. They also asked the kids how they stayed positive and resilient through tough times. The answers were pure gold!

The teachers and students were shocked by the tremendous reaction to their project that promotes kindness. They would like to continue the project for months or years to come and add new messages and themes, but the hotline costs money to operate. If you would like to donate to the “Peptoc Hotline” you can go to their fundraising site here

These kids prove how little things can have a big impact. What do you say to those who need some cheering up? How do you stay positive in troubling times? I’d love to hear your advice in the comments!

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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