For several days before the somber anniversary of 12/14, First Selectman Pat Llodra led a panel of community leaders through a half-dozen press conferences that were attended by state, regional, and national media.
Her primary goal was to ensure reporters had sufficient material so they would not be required to come to Newtown on or around the first anniversary of the day when 20 children and six women were killed at Sandy Hook School, in Nancy Lanza, the shooter's first victim; and the shooter, who took his life when police descended on the elementary school that Friday morning. Mrs Llodra and town leaders worked to preempt a repeat of streets in town being clogged with media vehicles from around the globe, in particular within Sandy Hook Village district, and the intimidation or disturbance of residents with invasive interview requests.
At the same time, the first selectman used her national platform to request that people across the nation and around the globe honor the fallen teachers and students of Sandy Hook School by performing acts of kindness in their own communities. In the weeks since those press conferences, Mrs Llodra’s office has received numerous correspondence from around the country from groups and individuals who responded to her humble request.
One of her favorite responses to date came in the form of a card from Midlothian High School in Virginia. The senders detailed 26 acts accomplished by the high school students. Among those efforts:
*The school’s dance team held a denim drive, with donated clothing going to the local Goodwill charity;
*A collection of art supplies was donated to a local elementary school by Midlothian’s National Art Honors Society;
*The freshman class conducted a fundraiser for the Richmond Animal League shelter;
*Staff from the student newspaper, The Scoop, collected 385 books for a local church tutoring program, and assisted the Science Learning Class with a coat drive;
*The Midlothian French Club baked and decorated cookies to give to their local fire department; and
*Other groups in the school raised funds that went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and their RAMPS Club helped construct an access ramp for a local handicapped individual’s home.
“It’s really touching to begin seeing how folks from around the United States have honored our community, and to let Newtown know how they are thinking of us during this time,” Mrs Llodra said.
One of the other memorable items of correspondence was a short note and photo of the Atlanta Extreme Volleyball Club, which sent a photo of its 15-Year-Old squad, each displaying kindness goals temporarily tattooed on their forearms.
An accompanying note from club member Kristy Schreiner details how she read about Mrs Llodra’s request and asked each club member to think of a word related to an act of kindness. Then on the weekend of December 21, each member was asked to perform those acts of kindness in memory of two of those lives lost at Sandy Hook School.
In a note to team parents, Ms Schreiner said: “It doesn’t have to be a great act — it could be as simple as helping around the house, opening a door or carrying groceries … but if they want to go BIG, let them. To know my child touched another life hundreds of miles away would be such a gift — one that cannot be bought.”
Another note, from Maria Musti Cook, of York, Penn., also touched Mrs Llodra when she received it December 20. Referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers and staff, Ms Cook acknowledged how they put smiles on the faces of hundreds of Sandy Hook students every day.
“I would like to give a smile in each of their memories to a child who has not been able to smile,” she wrote. “Enclosed, please find a contribution in the amount of $1,500 representing a cleft palate surgery.”
She closed naming each of the SHES staffers who were lost on 12/14.