What began as a haircut for 7-year-old Zalissa Lomax has ignited a chain reaction at Sardis Enrichment School.
Over the summer, Lomax and her best friend donated their hair to make a wig for Lomax's cousin, a relative in Texas she's never met. The cousin suffers from alopecia, a disease that causes her hair to fall out.
"Her hair started falling out when she turned 10 years old. I felt really sad for her so what I did was I just wanted to help her," Lomax said. "When we got to give her the wig she was so, so happy. She was sweet. And it made me have a happy heart. My heart was so, so happy that it just made me feel much better."
That feeling was something Lomax and her grandmother, Claudia, wanted to share with a bigger community, and together they started a random acts of kindness campaign at the school as part of the Rachel's Challenge program.
Zalissa Lomax was asked to sign a link to add to a chain of kindness sponsored by 11 Alive News in Atlanta, and the story of Rachel's Challenge "snowballed" from there, Claudia Lomax said.
Rachel Scott was the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting.
"She also was the one that the (shooter) spoke to and asked, ‘Are you a Christian and are you afraid to die?' She said, ‘Yes I am a Christian,' and he shot her. The legacy that she left is phenomenal," Claudia Lomax said.
One month before Scott was killed, she wrote an essay for class about her life code of ethics.
"My biggest aspects of ethics include being honest, compassionate and looking for the best and beauty in everyone," the essay said. "Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer ... I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
It was discovered that on the back of her dresser, Scott had traced her hands and written, "These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people's hearts."
After her death, her father began the Rachel's Challenge program to touch people's hearts, and their minds, Claudia Lomax said.
"What Rachel left is a wonderful legacy of kindness, compassion and care for others. She taught us that we can all make a difference," Claudia Lomax told students Monday.
The entire student body at Sardis created hand art, inspired by Scott's handprints, with "I can make a difference" written on them. Teachers are also reviewing several challenges as part of the program, including being kind and treating others well.
Throughout the week, classes wrote down their random acts of kindness on blue and yellow chain links.
"(The chains include) raking a neighbor's leaves that had been sick - It said that mister so-and-so had said, ‘Can I pay you,' and the child said, ‘No, I want to do this just to help you,'" Sardis Assistant Principal Lisa Saxon said. "Somebody had bought toothbrushes and hygiene-type items and was giving them to a shelter."
All of the class chains will be connected at an assembly Friday, where the completed Sardis chain will be handed to representatives from 11 Alive News.
The news crew will then take all the collected chains from schools to the Georgia Dome on Nov. 11 for a presentation, Claudia Lomax said.
Unlike some schools involved, Sardis approached the challenge a little bit differently. They tied it to Red Ribbon Week festivities, showing students they can make a difference in their own lives by being kind to their body and not using drugs.
Administrators also chose not to talk about the nature of Scott's death as she was killed in a school. Instead, they focused on Zalissa Lomax's story.
"They actually call it ‘Zalissa's Challenge,'" Zalissa Lomax said. "They think about it as it's really cool and they think it's really nice that we're starting it."
Saxon said the effect Zalissa Lomax has had on the school "is just amazing."
"Her random act of kindness has just trickled down," Saxon said.
Small-time fame aside, Zalissa Lomax sees her story and Rachel's Challenge as a way to help students who are being bullied and to raise awareness of how much a difference a simple smile can make.
"I think it's an extremely worthy cause because of the problems the schools are having and bullying seems to be one of the biggest," Claudia Lomax said. "No matter how small the act of kindness is, it doesn't matter. You can touch people's hearts."