Members of Team #hop, from left, Eva Kiparizoska, 17, of West Jones, Emma DeSantis, 16, of South Jones, Cade Culpepper, 17, of Laurel Christian School, Gabi Hodge, 17, of Northeast Jones and Josarah Slover, 16, of Northeast Jones in front of the mural that was Future Leaders of Jones County team’s project. (Photos by Mark Thornton)

Mural with message from Future Leaders

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The message is what the world needs, say those who created it. And dozens of people of all ages showed up on a Saturday to give their multi-colored stamps of approval.

“In a world where you can be anything, BE KIND” reads the mural on the side of Central Creativity on North 6th Avenue, just across from the “Welcome to historic downtown Laurel, Mississippi” sign that greets people at the entrance to Central Avenue.

It was the brainchild of Emma DeSantis, and she and her fellow Future Leaders of Jones County team took it on as their project for the program.

“When we first started, we tried to think of a problem,” said DeSantis, 16, who attends South Jones. “We thought about what a big problem cyber-bullying and bullying are and the rise in teen suicide. We wanted to show how a simple word of kindness can make a difference.”

Team #hop — Hands of Positivity — came up with the wording and design of the message, then raised the money to hire downtown mural master Will Sellers and River Prince to paint it. Sellers gave them a discount rate of $450 and Sherwin Williams donated the paint for the project.

On Saturday, supporters came out and used different colors of paint to put their handprints under the message. That serves as their “pledge” to be kind and it sends a message to townspeople and tourists that Laurel is a kind place, team members hope.

“When people drive by it, we hope it gets in their mind and stays there, like a subliminal message,” DeSantis said. “The murals in downtown are so popular and with social media being so popular, we hope people take pictures in front of it and share them with everyone.”

Mayor Johnny Magee and dozens of parents and children were among the people to come put their

Barrett Walters, the 6-month-old son of Jordan and Katie Walters, gets a little help from his mother to put his tiny handprint on the wall. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

handprints on the wall of warmth. Jordan and Katie Walters brought their 6-month-old baby Barrett to put his tiny print on the wall, and all of the kids who were coming to a birthday party at Central Creativity were expected to add theirs later.

DeSantis and other team members who were there — Eva Kiparizoska, 17, of West Jones, Cade Culpepper, 17, of Laurel Christian School, Gabi Hodge, 17, of Northeast Jones and Josarah Slover, 16, of Northeast Jones — thanked Sherwin Williams for donating the paint, Alex Hodge and B-Clean for donating the use of the hand-washing station for people to rinse the paint off their hands and Rhye and Jenny McLeod for allowing them to put the mural on their building. Other team members included Baleigh Jones and Brea Smith.