Mountain Academy Students Learn About Community Through Local Nonprofits

Our friends at the Community Foundation of Teton Valley are once again putting on the Tin Cup Challenge in Teton Valley. “One of the most innovative charitable fundraisers in the nation, the Tin Cup Challenge is also one of the most successful. Since 2008, this event has raised over $18.2 million, directly benefiting Teton Valley’s cherished nonprofits working tirelessly to enhance our quality of life.”

As we are gearing up for the Tin Cup Challenge Event Day, Saturday July 16th, 2022 we would like to highlight the work of other local nonprofits in the Teton Valley community. Our Mountain Academy students spent some time researching and then interviewing local nonprofits. 

“The second and third graders at Mountain Academy have been studying how people throughout history, and people in this valley, have used their voices to raise awareness for challenges facing the community. They have explored different nonprofits in the area and learned about these organizations’ missions and goals. In the final iteration of this project, students have chosen a nonprofit organization in the Valley that they are passionate about and have then selected two mediums through which to raise awareness for these respective organizations.” -Tim Gruber, Lower School Faculty

The following is an excerpt from a Teton Valley News article from June 22, 2022. You can read the full article, with additional interviews conducted by Mountain Academy students here.


Heather DeVine, People Spread Love Interviewed by Freya Bragg


Freya: Describe the work you do.

Heather: Hi, I’m Heather DeVine. In 2015 I founded People Spread Love, a nonprofit organization that empowers community volunteers to write notes of love to those facing adversity all over the world. The word adversity is a big word but what it means is to be facing a difficulty in your life like a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a pet, parents getting divorced, grief, moments like that.

This act of kindness (writing that note of love) expresses empathy and revives human connection across community lines. As the Founder and Executive Director I love sharing this work with communities all over because this kind of “heart work” is what the world needs more of and it’s more apparent now than ever before.


Freya: What did you think you were going to do when you grew up?

Heather: This is a great question, what I wanted more than anything growing up was to be an artist. The cool thing about People Spread Love is that I can make art by pouring into those that need extra love right now and that makes me so happy.


Freya: What has your job (PSL) taught you?

Heather: It has taught me that there is kindness in the world. That people care about others, they just need a way to channel that energy of thoughtfulness and PSL is a great way to do that.


Freya: What do you like about your job (PSL)?

Heather: My most favorite part about my role with PSL is to see how other people light up when they want to spread love to others. Light begins to shine when we focus our love and energy on one person or people in a very intentional way. The super power of “love spreading” is inside all of us if we have the courage to unlock it within ourselves. And that’s pretty magical to witness that.


Freya: How did you come up with PSL?

Heather: PSL began in response to a tragic day in 2015 when a gunman took 9 lives in a church in Charleston, SC. I was deeply saddened. Even though I didn’t know any of those people I felt empathy and despair for the loss of their lives. I knew I wanted to do something and that day I walked into a grocery store and picked up 9 spiritual sympathy cards in the greeting card aisle. I stood in front of the cards and read through them intentionally with those individuals in my mind. My first thought was “send this to the church and have your husband sign it with you.” Then the next thought came in “no, ask the whole community to sign them.” I contacted every one I knew in the valley and people met me to sign the cards and add to the package. When I addressed the parcel the return address said: “People Spread Love.”


Freya: If you had unlimited resources, what would you want to do with PSL?

Heather: If we had unlimited resources, I would want to take this PSL program all over the country and indeed all over the world. A practice like this adopted into households and schools could change the world with the simplest gesture there is.


Freya: How can we help you?

Heather: a. Tell your parents about People Spread Love. Adopt this as a practice you do together, spread love to someone else who is having a difficult time. You don’t even need to write to those you don’t know, but you can recognize when someone in your life (neighbor, relative, friend) is going through a difficult time and you can check on them, tell them that you care, sit with them and hold space.

b. Request love for someone you know and we will add it to our “Who Needs Love” list (we update that list monthly). The person you request love to will receive letters/cards from people all over the country and the gesture us your request is anonymous.


Freya: If you could spread one message through the Valley, what would it be?

Heather: Continue to spread love and empathy in your community. So many are going through difficult times and we need to give them the grace to get through and someone with the message of “you are not alone” can change their path to veer back into a lane of healing and peace.

Learn more about People Spread Love and sign up for a starter kit that “empowers community volunteers to participate at home, in the classroom, or in a community setting with basic necessary supplies to ignite curiosity in this act of writing letters to those that are facing adversity all across the country.”


We encourage you to check out the list of nonprofit organizations that can receive matching donations from the Tin Cup Challenge. Mountain Academy of Teton Science Schools is on the list along with many other amazing organizations making a difference in our local community. Please consider making a donation, the Tin Cup Challenge is accepting donations for matching funds now until July 22, 2022.

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