Gestures Of Kindness, Part Seven: Continuing Offers Of Strength And Comfort

The Retention Committee from Braintree Hospital in Braintree, Mass., recently collected school supplies to be donated to schools in their area in honor of those killed on 12/14. One of two locations the supplies were delivered to on April 12 was Jefferson Elementary School in Rockland, Mass.

(This is the seventh installation of a series of stories that share with Newtown Bee 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.)

Mary Ann Murtha was among the countless Newtown residents who “worked with some of the donors post 12/14, large and small,” Ms Murtha said this week. One such group was Braintree Hospital, who wanted to donate to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I suggested they dedicate a local act of kindness” on behalf of Newtown, Ms Murtha said, and “they listened.”

In memory of the children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, staff of the Braintree, Mass.-based hospital recently collected school supplies for a few weeks.

“We collected a generous amount … and delivered them on Friday, April 12,” Braintree Hospital Retention Committee members Elizabeth Nee, Stacie Dunham and Marie O’Brien said via email to Ms Murtha. The group made two visits. One was to Jefferson Elementary School in Rockland, Mass., and the other was to Center-Sylvester Elementary in Hanover, Mass.

“These schools were chosen because we have family that attend and work at these schools,” the women explained.

“We were greeted with a warm welcome,” their note continued. “There were so many kind words spoken as they accepted their donations.

“Thank you for letting us join you in the healing process.”


Helping Haiti, Honoring Sandy Hook

A seventh grade student from Suffield Middle School, Caleigh Horrigan, 12, recently wrote an article for her local newspaper, The Suffield Observer, to highlight the charitable efforts of Sacred Heart Parish in Suffield. A special offering on Palm Sunday was done to honor those who were killed on 12/14.

Caleigh explained in her article how the Sacred Heart Parish, a church which she belongs to, collected donations on Palm Sunday to raise money for a dental clinic in Jeremie, Haiti. Despite the small size of the congregation, Caleigh was impressed with the amount of money that was raised.

“We raised about $11,000 for the clinic. Our church isn’t that big and neither is our town and people donate a lot of money and time,” she said. “When Father DeVito says something, it’s taken to heart and people really do give donations.”

Caleigh said that donating in the memory of the Sandy Hook victims was a way to commemorate those that were lost.

“We can pray for them but there is nothing more that we can really do. We can’t bring back those lives. We felt that it would be better to do something in memory of them because we can’t change what happened,” Caleigh said.

This was the third article Caleigh has written for her town’s newspaper. She says charity and writing are two things she enjoys doing.

 “I always like doing things that have to do with charity, it feels good to do that sort of stuff,” Caleigh said. “I like writing articles because the articles that I’ve written so far have brought things to people’s lives they haven’t thought of before.”


“You Are Not Alone”

A Rhode Island man with personal connections to the area has been selling T-shirts to raise money for The Sandy Hook School Support Fund that was set up between Newtown Savings Bank and The United Way of Western Connecticut. Doug Sternberg is familiar with the Newtown area. He attended The Gunnery in Washington Depot, and has family in Bridgewater.

Mr Sternberg has teamed up with a local promotional manufacturer, Parsons Kellogg, to produce a black T-shirt with the words “Newtown Our Town With You All The Way” and a small American flag emblem. The T-shirt is being sold for $20, plus shipping and handling, and can be purchased through a Facebook page (Newtown Our Town), and through Parsons Kellogg’s website. All net proceeds will be donated to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

A graphic designer by trade, Mr Sternberg wanted to use his craft to raise money and create a message of solidarity.

“We were looking for something that had a message of rallying around. It’s an obviously an awful situation. There’s nothing anyone can do for these people except to tell them that they’re not alone,” Mr Sternberg said.

He added that even though he and his family have been able to avoid tragedy, he can empathize with the victims.

“As you get older it’s time to start giving back,” he said. “My bride and I have been very fortunate that we haven’t suffered tragedy in our lifetime, you realize that life is very short and it can be very painful. This was our very small way of trying to help.”


Inspiration From A Sandy Beach

The events of 12/14 have touched people all over the country. Originating in Sandy Hook, the reverberations of the tragedy has reached far and wide including the sandy beaches of Harwich, Mass. There on the southern shore of Cape Cod, artist Elaine Felos Ostrander has crafted art out of seashells, paint and beads, and wrote a poem to honor the lives lost in Sandy Hook on 12/14.

No stranger to painful occurrences, Ms Ostrander has documented many well-known incidents, both happy and sad in her artwork, including 9/11. Despite her familiarity with sorrowful situations Ms Ostrander said she was deeply affected by 12/14.

“I was so moved by it, honest to god I couldn’t function for two weeks,” Ms Ostrander said. “I have grandchildren that age, it’s all I could think about. People asked me if I was going to paint the children but it was too emotional for me.”

Instead of a traditional painting Ms Ostrander found her artistic medium on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, collecting seashells from her favorite walking spot, Red River Beach. She incorporated 26 shells into her art work, one for each victim. She placed a bead in each of the shells, and two beads in six of the shells to commemorate the six adult educators who lost their lives on 12/14. She added a mermaid with paint as a symbolic lodestar.

“The mermaid is perfect. From the sea she can guide them,” Ms Ostrander said.

The artwork and an accompanying poem are being displayed at Harwich Community Center, where Ms Ostrander hopes the art will provide comfort and healing to those who view it.

“I hope it would bring some peace because the painting is beautiful, and I think the poem has hope in it,” she said. “There’s hope that they’re going to be safe.”


The Poem

A mermaid hovers over

26 Shells gathered along the shore

Capturing their spirit in her heart and ours

The water flows over their souls

Their memory we will always hold

Newtown, give up your angels to the sea

Where they can stay for eternity.

—Elaine Felos Ostrander


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