To the Editor:
We can’t begin to express our thanks to the thousands of you in the Newtown Community who brought your own inner light to our Lighthouse Festival on Saturday. If you didn’t bring it with you, it appears you found a bit of light while there: the smiles and joy on children and adults alike were omnipresent.
By our best estimate, well over 1,000 children walked through our custom, 20-ft lighthouse, each making his or her mark on the whiteboards and chalkboards. The resulting amalgam of scribbles, pictures and notes – many of which expressed joy, love, sorrow or community pride – created a profoundly poignant piece of art. Even though the chalk is temporary and will wash away, the childrens’ enthusiasm left a permanent mark on our hearts.
Family after family entered our “lighthouse museum” and gleefully debated which to do first: listen to a live musical performance, explore the lighthouse models, check out the Coast Guard’s light display, read about the history of lighthouses, or run to our custom seascape to become a “keeper” of our 14-ft custom lighthouse.
From there, families meandered through our hallways decorated with beautiful artwork created by over a thousand Newtown students, almost certainly stopping upon one created by a family member or friend. Adults and children of all ages found something to enjoy in the rooms of discovery hosted by the Eli Whitney Museum, EverWonder Children’s Museum, Emerald Sketch Art Therapy, CT Music Therapy, Twyla Hafermann-Kessler, Jeremy D’Entrement, or John Tischio, spending time in many or all of them learning and playing.
Outside, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, the Norwalk Maritime Center’s Touch Tank, local jugglers, and “Coastie” the remote-controlled talking boat provided great entertainment and the pulled-pork and chocolate-covered bacon at Ultimate BBQ provided great temptation.
As a kickoff event for the Ben’s Lighthouse foundation, things could not have gone any better! We are glad that we could provide you a welcome respite from an otherwise difficult weekend, but we are a long way from being done. Over the coming, months, years and decades, Ben’s Lighthouse will provide more community-building events, age-appropriate programs and workshops for children and youth, and community-service opportunities for the older youth. Everything we do will be geared to the continued healing of our young people and will be open to all families in Newtown and surrounding towns.
We are eternally grateful to all our sponsors, contributors and volunteers who made this happen. And we are most grateful to each of you who spent some time with us on Saturday for sharing your light with us and each other.
Rick Haylon, Chair
Carla Tischio, Festival Co-chair
Kate Woodhouse, Festival Co-chair
Mary Chamiec-Case, Festival Co-chair
Ben’s Lighthouse (for Newtown’s Children)
36 Main Street, Newtown June 17, 2013