BEST OF 2023: Nicholas student counters negativity with positivity

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

(originally published May 15)

EDITOR’S NOTE: When we started RealWV, it was with stories like this in mind. So, what better story is there than this to kick off our Best of 2023 series? Originally published in May, this story details the kindness of Matty Buckner.

Having had the privilege of getting to know her, I can tell you that Matty Buckner truly is one of West Virginia’s better angels. She is also an amazingly talented young writer, as evidenced by her work for the West Virginia Press Association.

Matty is a genuinely kind soul, and quite simply one of the best among us. I am thankful to live in a place that raises kids like her.

Oh, and Stephen’s story was pretty good, too. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat. And if you have read it, what a great story to go back and read again.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. – Matthew Young

Summersville Middle School student Matty Buckner said she noticed “people seemed heavy” with depression and anxiety the last few years, so she decided to do something about it. 

She started Quacks for Kindness, a simple activity meant to uplift people in her community. How does it work? She writes an encouraging message and places it inside a capsule with a plastic duck. She then hides the duck where it can be easily found. 

So far, Matty has distributed some 250 ducks all over her community–at schools, doctor’s offices, gas stations, and everywhere in between. 

“I saw a lot of negativity, and I figured the best way to fight it was positivity,” she tells The Real WV. 

‘My daughter was in a slump’

Matty’s mom, Star Buckner, says kids face enormous social and emotional pressures today. “Sometimes they are overlooked. People say, ‘They’re just kids.’ But these kids have gone through a lot.” 

She says Matty faced the same issues all kids face. “Typical teenage stuff. Navigating middle school in this day and age is tough. My daughter was in a slump.” 

Star said she tried several avenues to ensure her daughter was getting the support she needed, and then they had an idea. Star heard about people hiding ducks on cruise ships, and Matty remembered her friends hiding inspirational rocks several years ago. They decided to take the best of both ideas and create Quacks for Kindness. 

“It’s changed her whole perspective,” Star says about her daughter. “She is enjoying school and life so much!” 

Matty excelled academically this year with her new outlook on life, competing in the History Bowl and making it to the WV Social Studies Fair for the first time. 

Each message is unique

Like a fortune cookie, each duck contains a short and sweet quote for the person who finds it. But unlike a fortune cookie, these messages are not mass-produced or taken from the internet. Matty writes each one herself. 

“You matter.”

“You have an ability to do great things.” 

“You are important, and you being here matters.” 

Sometimes she writes messages intended for certain people, and she then hides that duck in a place she thinks they will find it. 

She wrote, “You are one of us,” in a duck intended for a special needs student with physical limitations. That student now draws pictures of animals for Matty and regularly gives them to her.  

‘Top secret’

But not everyone knows the source of the ducks. Star says Matty’s intention was to do this program quietly so that her peers wouldn’t know where the ducks came from. 

“We called it our ‘top secret super squirrel mission,’” Star says with a chuckle. 

The ducks have made their way throughout the community since October 2022 when the program began. Matty observed one student keeping the duck with her when she took tests as a means of support. 

“When my classmates would find them and bring them back to class,” Matty says, “I tried to be as calm as possible without giving away my secret.”

Lora Fisher found one at the New River Health Oak Hill school-based clinic, where she works. “I thought it was you,” she said to Matty. 

‘I want to leave something behind’

Matty is ready to disclose her identity as the source of Quacks for Kindness. Why now? 

“I want to leave something behind,” she says. “It’s a simple concept with a big impact…and anybody can do it!” 

Star says it was simple to achieve logistically. “It’s an affordable, fast, and easy way to uplift people. We’ve lost that kindness. Everybody is so tense. Just be kind. We need that right now.”

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