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Cultivating Caring Ecosystems: NVUSD Schools + Horn Heart Foundation


Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Napa Valley, NVUSD (Napa Valley Unified School District) schools are sowing the seeds of compassion and creating thriving ecosystems of "Cariño" — a Spanish term for love, care, and kindness. Central to this journey is the heartwarming partnership between NVUSD and the Horn Heart Foundation, demonstrating how local organizations can profoundly impact education and community development.

Our story begins at Northwood Elementary School, a hub of learning and camaraderie. Three young hearts, belonging to Denise Horn's children, found their home at Northwood. Among them was Joe, a boy with an extraordinary spirit. Joe would often wander through the school's campus, stopping to chat with his cherished teachers. Tragically, Joe's life was cut short, leaving a void in the hearts of those who knew him. His teachers, fueled by their love for him, were determined to honor his memory. Partnering with the Northwood Family Club and a group of dedicated friends, they created a trail adorned with plaques and surrounded by four flourishing trees on the west side of the Northwood campus.

A year later, the Horn Heart Foundation was established, and its mission extended beyond the borders of Northwood. Their commitment to honor Joe, and his father, Daryl, by fostering friendships and fun to create positive opportunities was evident in their support for NVUSD schools and the broader community. They embraced a diverse range of initiatives, from supporting sports and scholarships for graduates of Napa High, Vintage High, and other regional high schools to nurturing student-athletesand promoting character development. The foundation left its mark on Vintage High School by providing football helmets and during the challenging days of the COVID-19 pandemic, they ensured students had PE take-home bags, safeguarding their physical and emotional well-being. These acts of kindness included the donation of Buddy Benches at Northwood, facilitating connections among students, especially those in need of a friend.

But the Horn Heart Foundation's kindness didn't stop there. An Art teacher at Northwood had a dream of creating a kindness garden, an extension of Joe's Path that would sow the seeds of compassion throughout the community. Aimee Reed-Heidenrich spearheaded this dream, working tirelessly alongside Suzanne Flint, Northwood's principal, teachers, the parent faculty club, the Horn Heart Foundation, and the entire Northwood staff to bring the Kindness Path to life.

However, one remarkable addition to the story was the creation of videos to help students understand the significance of the Buddy Benches and Kindness Path. Denise Horn organized every aspect of the production, including hiring professional videographers through the Horn Heart Foundation. Vintage High leadership students also got in on the act recording their thoughts about kindness to share with the students of Northwood.  

Principal Suzanne Flint expressed her gratitude, sharing, "Denise Horn from the Horn Foundation organized everything to do with the videos, including hiring some professional videographers through the Horn Heart Foundation. She and the Horn Heart Foundation have been huge supporters of Northwood for years, and we are the happy recipients of many kindness-related projects that they have funded!"

At a heartfelt reveal event, Northwood students watched the videos and learned about the Buddy Benches and Kindness Path. These videos stand as a testament to the power of community and the enduring legacy of Joe. We encourage you to watch the moving videos below. You can also find them on the Northwood Elementary and Vintage High School websites. 

While the Horn Heart Foundation spearheaded the project, other important community partners, including the Alaina's Voice Foundation and the Northwood Parent Faculty Club, provided matching funds that made the videos possible. 

This remarkable partnership between NVUSD, parents, and community-based foundations is a shining example of how local organizations can contribute to the cultivation of Caring Ecosystems within schools. This aligns seamlessly with NVUSD's strategic goal number one: Student Learning, Achievement, and Access, and emphasizes the well-rounded development of students, promoting programs that focus on health, wellness, and positive personal and social development.