Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

"Kindness Week" in Calaveras County got an extension of sorts this year.

Though the official designation expired more than three weeks ago, a sudden onslaught of deep snow prevented the annual "Kindness Hero Celebration," a reading of selected essays written by students in the Mark Twain Union Elementary School District, from occurring as planned at an Angels Camp City Council meeting last month.

Instead, the blue ribbons came back out in force and the inspirational stories students composed about people who have made a lasting impact on their lives were voiced Monday morning at the Mark Twain Elementary gymnasium.

Students wrote about friends, teachers, mentors and even widely known national figures like Martin Luther King Jr., in the case of sixth grader Lateefah Cleary.

However, the most common thread among essayists was the importance of loving family members.

After seventh-grader Casey Riley's father died of heart disease, she came to rely on brother John Riley, 16, a Vallecito High School student, as her kindness hero.

"Everyone needs a father figure. Mine is my big brother," Casey said. "Even when someone has done wrong, John has the courage to forgive and forget."

Eighth-grader Kate Roberts saw the power in grandparents Bob and Marlene Bach's volunteerism, playing piano at a local hospital.

"Their music lifts people up," Kate said. "It gives patients a reason to laugh."

Second-grader Madyson Bernasconi experienced the outpouring of love by her aunt, Paula Broglio.

"Aunt Paula has had asmany as 800 people over for dinner. That's a lot of people," Madyson said. "My life is better having her in it. I love her so much."

Fourth-grader Samantha Taylor remembered her sister, Emilya Jade, who died two years ago at age 4.

"When I was sad, she was there for me," Samantha said. "Even though she couldn't talk … I felt she said she really, really loved me."

Her late sister's organs were donated to save the lives of numerous other children, Taylor said.

Other essay winners honored Monday and their heroes were Logan Edwards ("Papa" Philip Ripplinger), Kyler Rolleri (Cody Conrado), Eva Melquiadez (Rita Crawford), Anita Ruiz (Bianca Ruiz), Shelbie Galas (Will Williams), Jessica Marciel and Jesus Marcos Moncada (Barbara Sadler), Landie Winans ("Grandma Carie"), Halee Davis and Elizabeth Vandenbosch (Chloe Caywood) and Jasmine Rutherford (Lillion Taylor).