Gestures Of Kindness, Part 15: Honoring Those Lost By Sharing From The Heart

(This is the 15th and final installation of a series of stories that have shared special events that have taken place as Newtown began healing following 12/14. The series has also offered anecdotes from across the country, of people offering kind gestures on behalf of our town.)

This past June, the dance studio Off Broadway Dance Center from Fulton, N.Y., won a state competition and decided to donate their cash prize to a Newtown dance studio. Dance, Etc School For Performing Arts, Inc, on Mt Pleasant Road, received the $250 prize from the New York studio. The studio asked that the donation goes toward Dance, Etc’s scholarship in honor of Charlotte Bacon, Olivia Engel, and Jessica Rekos, three young dancers and members of the Dance Etc family who were killed on 12/14.

Off Broadway Dance Center won the coveted Top Class Studio Award at the New York State Dance Challenge, which resulted in the dance studio receiving a trophy and $250 worth of prize money.

According to The New York State Dance Challenge’s website, the Top Class Award goes to a “studio that displays positive attitudes, a willingness to help others, age-appropriate costuming and choreography throughout the competition.”

The dancers who participated in the competition ranged from 6 to 17 years old.

Ellen Marshall, a representative from Off Broadway Dance Center, explained how she got the idea to donate the money.

“I thought that it was a great way to remember the dancers whose lives were taken too soon, and in a senseless fashion,” she said. “We love to dance... [and] hope we could contribute in a small way to help others who might love to have dance in their lives.”

Ms Marshall also added that even though it was her initial idea to donate the studio’s winnings, all the students were in complete agreement with the decision. They all wanted to do something special to help, she said.

“They sent us a beautiful letter and the donation in the mail,” said Jen Turey, the artistic director and owner of Dance, Etc. “It brings me to tears when I receive donations from other dance studios. We know how difficult it is to win at dance competitions. It takes hours of practice and a lot of dedication.

“So, for these dancers to donate their winnings means so much to us,” she continued. “It’s amazing that someone we have never met before can be so kind to us. And to help us offer the art of dance to someone in need.”

Ms Turey explained that since 12/14, her studio has received thousands of letters, poems, and drawings from all over the world. Last winter, they hung up what they received in the studio for all to read, all of which are now kept in binders.

Other studios that have donated toward Dance Etc’s scholarship fund include Broadway Dance South, Breaking Ground Dance Center in Westchester, Stamford Ballet School, and Kidz in Step Dance and Gymnastics.

The scholarship will offer three full-year scholarships for a one-hour class with the inclusion on a recital costume. It is not restricted to just Newtown children or students of Sandy Hook Elementary.

“We know that dance classes can help heal,” said Ms Turey. “After December 14, we opened our doors to those children who needed an activity to take their minds off of things and to enjoy a physically activity.”

Ms Turey continued: “It takes focus, physical effort, and brain power to take a class. At the higher levels, an emotional connection to the choreography becomes a valuable tool in not only performing, but working towards possibly getting through a tough time.”


600 Acts Of Kindness

Students of Tredyffrin/Easttown Middle School in Berwyn, Penn., celebrated Kindness Day on Friday, December 13. The effort was launched by the Walker family — Faith, 12; Eamon, 10; and their parents, Mickey and Kelly — who lived in Newtown for 11 years before moving into the T/E school district in 2009. Faith and Eamon still have plenty of friends in town, including some who lost their siblings on 12/14, said their mother.

Through social media and financial donations the Walkers have supported their former hometown during the year. But they wanted something done in their community to help others never forget, in a positive way, and to remember those who were lost on 12/14, said Mrs Walker.

According to Kelly Walker, the event was offered as “a positive remembrance of the lives affected by the tragedy in Newtown on December 14, 2012. Students wore green and white that Friday, and 100 Acts of Kindness cards were passed among the student body of 1,100.”

Each business-sized card had the word Kindness at the top of the card, printed in green, with a small rainbow stretching above that word.

Below that was printed “You have been served with a random act of kindness. Please perform your own random act of kindness, initial your name on the back and pass this card along. Let’s see how much kindness we can spread!”

“Students were very enthusiastic with this activity,” said Mrs Walker. “Various acts ranging from buying a fellow student lunch when he forgot lunch money, helping carry books in the hallway to just paying a classmate a positive compliment” were done by the middle school students. “Feedback was very positive,” she added.

The Walkers received a note from Dr Amy Meisinger, principal of their school, last week.

“She said of the 100 or so cards passed around, more than 600 acts of kindness were recorded from the initialing on backs of cards,” said Mrs Walker.


Giving Dolls Given New Homes

On Friday, December 13, 20 “Giving Dolls” were donated to The Ronald McDonald House in New Haven by members of a recently formed chapter of The Giving Doll, Inc program.

Members of Beacon Hill Evangelical Free Church in Monroe established their Giving Doll mission in September. It is the first chapter in the state, and it was formed after a member of the congregation learned of the program while visiting Florida and attending a doll making session.

Giving Doll, Inc is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) community volunteer program that constructs and distributes handmade cloth dolls to give faith, love, hope, joy, and comfort to children at times of special need, said Pat Dunton, a member of Beach Hill EFC and its newest mission.

Since 2007, volunteers have created and given away more than 19,000 dolls worldwide. The dolls offer comfort to children facing a serious illness, dealing with the deployment of a parent, dealing with homelessness, poverty, death, or serious illness of a family member, “and most recently, the children affected by the tragedy in Connecticut,” said Ms Dunton.

The Giving Doll, Inc program decided to have a special project for 2013, in which it would donate 20 dolls to at least one Ronald McDonald House in every state in memory of the children whose lives were taken on 12/14. Each collection was to include 12 girls and eight boys, representing the children killed last year, and all of the dolls would wear red shoes… like Ronald McDonald.

It was hoped, said Ms Dunton, that the children who are given these dolls at a Ronald McDonald House will receive the special comfort that hugging one of these dolls can give.

Each Giving Doll from the Beacon Hill ministry was accompanied by a tag that read:

“This doll was handmade by volunteers, who are a part of The Giving Doll nonprofit program in memory of the children who became Angels in Newtown, CT. Our hope is that you feel the love that went into making this doll and receive comfort during this special time. Please feel free to share, with us, your special doll story.

“The Giving Doll, PO Box 972, Wadsworth, Ohio 44282, www.thegivingdoll.org.”

The Beacon Hill Giving Doll chapter made its trip to New Haven, said Ms Dunton, on Friday, December 13. The group purposely delivered the dolls prior to the first anniversary of 12/14.

“The delivery of these dolls at this time has nothing to do with giving for Christmas,” Ms Dunton was careful to point out. “It just happened to have been the timing for our completion of the dolls.”

As of December 16, a total of 1,200 Giving Dolls had been sent or hand delivered to 60 Ronald McDonald Houses in every state except Wyoming and Alaska (there are no RM Houses in those states).


Special Note: It has been a pleasure highlighting special events and programs that have been done over the past year in honor of those who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Countless people across the nation, and around the world, have been moved to do something, anything, to memorialize those lost, or to fundraise to help those who are trying to recover.

The Newtown Bee realizes that similar events will continue in months and even years so come. We will occasionally highlight special events, but as part of our process of helping the community heal, we have decided to bring the “Gestures of Kindness” series to a conclusion. 

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