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Gestures Of Kindness, Part Four

(This is the fourth installation of a series of stories that share with readers special events that continue to take place as Newtown heals following the events of 12/14 at Sandy Hook School. It is also a continuation of anecdotes from across the country, of people offering kind gestures on behalf of our town.)

Passersby of Ram Pasture are used to seeing the town’s two Christmas trees lit at night during the holiday season. To the south of the larger tree, Santa’s sleight and eight illuminated reindeer are also left in place during the holiday season.

What is new this year, however, is a collection of decorative lambs who have now taken up residence around the larger of the trees. The lambs have been created using white lights encased in clear plastic tubing, attached to wire frames in the shape of lambs. The various sculptures have the lambs jumping, grazing, or just standing, seemingly looking at a viewer.

Guido Ledergerber, who lives in Illinois, fabricated the lambs that are now lit at night at Ram Pasture. Mr Ledergerber’s son-in-law Jonny Barnas drove the lambs from Walnut, Ill., to Newtown recently, delivering Mr Ledergerber’s gift for the town.

“They are and absolutely beautiful, playful, fun, and meaningful for our angels,” said Amy Mangold, director of Newtown Parks & Recreation.

Deborah Denzel, administrative assistant with Newtown Parks & Recreation, facilitated the project, from the first phone call to delivery. The current plan is for the lambs to remain on view until the end of the month, Ms Denzel said this week. They will then be put into storage, along with the other holiday decorations, for future repeated use.

*Greg Mullen, owner of Gregory James Gallery in New Milford, would like to offer free framing of a photo to the families of those lost on 12/14.

“When you are ready, please accept this small token as a way for me to show how much this has affected all of us,” Mr Mullen said. “I will never forget.”

Families can contact Mr Mullen at his gallery by calling 860-354-3436.

*One week after the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, Lindsey Heller, of Northbrook, Ill., along with close friends Lauren Dzakovich and Claire Prosperi, presented “Thoughts and Prayers for Newtown (Sandy Hook).”

The December 21 midday fundraiser was hosted outside of la de da!, a downtown Northbrook boutique, and the trio raised $2,282 through the sale of memorial ribbons. The trio also provided paper and markers for those who wanted to create sympathy cards “for all of those affected by the tragedy,” according to the event’s Facebook page. To keep visitors warm and somewhat fortified during the lunch hour, a local hot dog vendor, Josh’s Hot Dogs of Northbrook, gave away hot dogs between noon and 1 pm.

Ms Heller, 20, a student teacher, posted on the event’s Facebook page that the funds collected during the four-hour event would be donated to The Sandy Hook School Fund.

*Also on December 21, students from St Philip’s Catholic Primary School, in Newtown, Uckfield, East Sussex, United Kingdom, posted cards for their counterparts across the pond.

Jennifer Lake, chair of The Friends of St Philip’s Association (the parent-teacher-faculty association of the primary school), was watching the news “and happened to have a school newsletter resting on [her] lap,” Ron Hill, a Sussex-based photographer said both in an e-mail to The Newtown Bee as well as within a post he offered at UckfieldNews.com.

“Of course, the latest about the tragedy was being profiled at the time and I happened to glance down and recognise the address of our school is the same as the town in Connecticut,” Ms Lake, who is from the United States, told Mr Hill. “I suddenly thought that we could do something; send a message of peace, hope and love — lift them up in our hearts. Isn’t it common in our friendly little town of Uckfield, when we see someone, a new friend, a neighbour, a close friend, a loved one, we smile and wave, we embrace, we kiss, we shake hands — we offer each other the sign of peace all the time.”

So during the next school week, each class handmade its own card and every student signed them.

“All due care and consideration was taken with the KS1 and KS2 children — their messages of hope and peace and comfort are a wonderful reminder that all of these incredible attributes and attitudes are alive and well in our children,” Mr Hill wrote. “Our children look on the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School as friends. Through their actions our whole community here in Uckfield is twinned in friendship to Newtown, Connecticut. In a word: incredible.

“The cards were posted Friday, 21st December,” Mr Hill wrote. While they would not have arrived in time for Christmas, the Newtown children in England were hoping they would arrive for the new year.

“What a great way to ring it in,” Mr Hill’s note concluded.

*Tomas Leclerc announced via his blog on New Year’s Day that he is dedicating his 2013 Ironman Florida Race to those lost last month at Sandy Hook School.

Mr Leclerc, who said up front that he did not know anyone killed that Friday morning, said in his January 1 post that he “just can’t help to relate as a parent and loving father, even as a former teacher/professor in school, of what took place.” Mr Leclerc has a daughter in kindergarten, he said, and like parents around the world, “My heart is aching in pain for all of them, their families, and what they all have been going through. I can’t even imagine their pain, but I share this suffering and tears with them. This world is in serious need of more compassion, understanding, humanity, and caring for one another as loving human beings.”

And so he has decided that he will attempt to complete the 140.6-mile test of endurance while keeping every woman and child in mind, “to honor their lives, and for the love of one father (me) for his own child (my daughter), that we both will doing this journey together.” He is hoping to have his daughter, and other children waiting at the finish line to release balloons to honor each victim. He is also hoping to arrange it so that others, wherever they are in the country, can release balloons at that time as well.

*On January 4, Peggy and Gary Fillion of Sandy Hook were among those who attended “Helping Our Neighbors,” an event at The Waterview in Monroe.

The event offered attendees a full catered dinner and open bar, live auction and raffle, and music. Spearheaded by Alison Luciana, the entire event was put together by volunteers and gestures of goodwill, from the donation of the location and entire staff of the facility reportedly stepping up to volunteer their time — and even their tips — that evening. Auctioneer Mike Nuzzo, three local bakeries, graphic designers and printers, musicians and DJ Shawn Michaels and others all volunteered their time and/or services to the event. Fourteen auction items included a pair of Yankees tickets just above home plate, an autographed copy of Patricia Cornwall’s The Bone Bed, a customized tour for six people of the Bronx Zoo and even a private concert by Kicking Daisies.

“It was a wonderful benefit, put on by our good neighbors in Monroe as well as many in our state,” Mrs Fillion said a few days later. “Hundreds attended … [and] 100 percent of the proceeds are for the families of Sandy Hook.” Turns out that description is literal: the funds raised are going to the families.

According to the event’s Facebook page, more than $50,000 was raised on January 4 through the sale of tickets to attend the event, silent and live auction bidding, and raffle ticket sales.

An online auction was set up during the week that followed. The online auction of 11 additional items (jewelry, a skateboard, a pedicure and even a year’s worth of fresh-baked biscotti, a different flavor delivered each month) closed on January 11, and raised another $300, Ms Luciana said on January 17.

“We’re going to have [a bank manager from Union Savings] cut a check for each family,” Ms Luciana said. “They can decide what they want to do with it. Whatever they want, anything. It’s just to show them that we care.”

*The editorial staff of Antiques and The Arts Weekly, sister paper of The Newtown Bee, received a nice note from a longtime friend on January 16.

“Our hearts continue to be with the folks in Newtown and Sandy Hook,” wrote Susan Goralski, co-owner and business manager of Canton Auction Barn. On January 5, during the first auction of 2013 for the Connecticut auction and appraisals business, Ms Goralski and co-owner Richard Wacht gave out 26 gift certificates from their auction and local Farmington Valley businesses to the first 26 visitors to the barn’s homemade pie counter.

They did this, said Ms Goralski, in honor of the #26acts of kindness, honoring the students and teachers whose lives were so abruptly taken at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

“We asked that they ‘pay it forward,’” she added.

*The Mormon Tabernacle Choir dedicated its January 6 event, “Music and The Spoken Word,” to the 26 children and adults who were killed last month. Not only that, but there is a very local connection to the choir: Associate Music Conductor Ryan Murphy is a former Newtown resident, who attended Sandy Hook School for three years.

According to the choir’s website, Ryan described his former hometown as “a sleepy town, quiet and secluded” with all the typical small town events from Labor Day parades to pancake breakfasts. He credits the community for “a lot of who I am, both musically and as a person.”

In an effort to show encouragement, love and support (still according to the website), the choir’s January 6 performance included “tender, poignant children’s songs arranged by Murphy including, ‘’Give;’ Said the Little Stream,’ ‘I Am A Child of God,’ and the stirring, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ The program also set ‘a great tone’ for the start of a new year, ‘especially for those who are healing,’ said Murphy.”

Ryan reached out to The Newtown Bee following the special performance, saying via e-mail “I think the program went well. We just wanted to be able to do something on our end to reach out to those families and to the town.”

*The Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Court Our Lady of Victory No 588, located in Mt Carmel, N.Y., held its annual Twelve Days After Christmas party on the Epiphany. The court plans to organize a junior court in 2013 and five future Catholic Daughters attended the January 6 party.

Two of these future daughters, Claudia and Eliana Seidel, reportedly made Christmas ornaments with a picture of each of the victims from the Sandy Hook tragedy. The Reverend Frank Karwacki, chaplain, led a pray tribute to the victims. Mary Catherine Wydra, regent, read the names of the adults that were killed and each of the future daughters participated in reading the names of the children.

*Over the weekend of January 12-13, Maya and Jenny Wadhwa organized three fundraisers in Danbury to raise money for The Newtown Memorial Fund. Together with their classmates in sixth grade, the girls raised $2,432.91, according to their mother, Cheryl Sobieraj Wadhwa.

The girls are calling their events The Caring Cupcake and Bows Sales. They made more than 400 ribbon pins, some with dark green and other with light green, “solely because there was no dark green ribbon to be found for miles around,” said Mrs Wadhwa. The lighter green ribbon pins had a series of sequins attached to them. The darker ribbons had one of the 400 small baked clay hearts that had been individually made by Maya.

The girls also had cheer bows, to which they added the letters SHS. The gave the cheer bows to elementary-aged girls who visited their sales, and all over bows were given out for a donation of any size.

Baked goods, decorated in green and white, were donated for the sales by friends.

Maya and Jenny, according to their mother, have organized several similar sales around Connecticut and other states to raise more money. An aunt in Florida will host a sale during a science fair, another aunt in Albany will have one during a band gathering, while yet another aunt, near Rochester, will have one at a local store in Newtown’s honor.

A cousin in Denver is planning one as well, according to Ms Wadhwa. Friends in Farmington have organized two sites. Others are being planned in Georgia, South Carolina, and Massachusetts.

“They hope to plan 20 to honor the children lost and if possible plan another type of fundraiser for the teachers lost,” said Mrs Wadhwa.

The girls chose the Newtown Memorial Fund, their mother also said, because it said in its mission statement that it would create a memorial to honor the victims and take care the victims families now and in future.

*Two members of a church in Hudsonville, Mich., traveled to Newtown to deliver donations on behalf of their church.

Daybreak Church receptionist Connie Farber said on January 18 that two parishioners had visited town this month, delivering copies of Heaven Is For Real and Heaven Is For Real For Kids, “and teddy bears.”

The church was assisted by the local Salvation Army, she added.

*Kiki Kelley and USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States, has announced that The Kiki Cup, a major international Greco-Roman wrestling dual meet competition, will be renamed The Jack Pinto Cup this year, in loving memory of the 6-year-old wrestler who was tragically killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jack was a member of Newtown Youth Wrestling Association and also a first-year member of USA Wrestling, according to USAW’s website.

 

Upcoming Events

*The Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale, N.Y., one of Westchester County’s most active cultural resources, has achieved national recognition as a premier community music school for leadership in education, performance, and outreach for more than half a century. As part of its commitment to the larger community, Hoff-Barthelson has often held memorial concerts for the victims of international tragedies.

Hoff-Barthelson will hold “A Concert for Newtown” on Sunday, January 20, at 2 pm, in remembrance of the 20 children and seven adults “who were so senselessly and brutally taken from their loved ones in Newtown, Connecticut,” the school announced on January 8.

Faculty members and students have been invited to contribute a solo or chamber ensemble selection to the program. The public is invited to attend. There is no formal admission for the concert, although the school is requesting $20 donations, to be given to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

For additional information call 914-723-1126 or visit www.lhbms.org.

*After recent events of last month, many people have been left with questions and a layer of heaviness that covers daily lives.

Faith Church in New Milford is offering an event, “Heaven’s Truth: A Hope that Heals,” on Saturday, January 26, at 4 pm (a 6 pm event was originally scheduled, but all tickets have already been given out).

Contemporary Christian music artist Jeremy Camp will be joined by his pastor, Steve Berger, to share a message on the Faith Church stage. Mr Camp, who lost his wife to cancer, and Mr Berger, who lost a son, will minister hope and encouragement through song and a guided interview by Faith Church Pastor Frank Santora.

This is a free ticketed event, but seating is first come-first seated. Free tickets are available on the Faith Church website at www.FaithChurchCT.com.

The church is at 586 Danbury Road; call 860-354-7700 for additional information.

*A live benefit to raise additional funds for the My Sandy Hook Family Fund will be offered on Sunday, January 20, from 6 to 9 pm, at Studio 8 215 Pepes Farm Road in Milford.

The event will feature wine tastings, live entertainment from Jay Rowe and Friends, food, a silent auction and more. Live performances have been scheduled by Timmy Maia, Rohn Lawrence, Jay Rowe, David Livolsi, Trevor Somerville, and others.

Tony Dovolani, owner of Dance With Me dance studios and a recurring guest on Dancing With The Stars, had planned to be at the event but has a schedule conflict. Instead, he is now offering a free private ballroom dancing lesson certificate for his new dance studio in Stamford to all attendees.

Tickets are $50 per person, and cover wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres. The event is a fundraiser for My Sandy Hook Family Fund, which was formed within days of 12/14 by parents of surviving children to help their fellow Sandy Hook School families.

Visit NeighborsForNewtown.com for tickets or additional information about the January 19 event.

Additional fundraisers are also coming up, including a chili cook-off in Somers on Saturday, January 19; a fundraiser at Bar None in Derby, also on January 19; a pair of concerts, January 19-20, at Ridgefield Playhouse; and a special service featuring the Reverend Dr James Alexander Forbes, January 20 at Newtown Congregational Church (co-sponsored by Newtown United Methodist Church), among others.

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