Sandy Hook School Effort To Send ‘Thanks’ Beyond Town Borders

Since its inception at Sandy Hook School in 2006, the local Valentines For Troops effort has mailed many letters to troops serving abroad, with 5,000 letters written in 2012 alone. This year Sandy Hook School did something different.

Following a large group effort, spearheaded by Sandy Hook School parents Barb Sibley and Karyn Holden, cookies, other baked goods, notes, and valentines were delivered to local fire departments and more than 90 police departments across the state and some out of state by Valentine’s Day. Each fire department and police department helped Newtown following the events of 12/14.

Ms Sibley and Ms Holden said the “Valentines for Heroes” initiative was a brainchild of both women.

Sandy Hook School students were asked to make Valentine’s Day cards, and parents were asked to contribute batches of cookies, called “Cookies of Kindness.”

Ms Sibley is the Sandy Hook School PTA co-chair and has also served as the school’s Valentines For Troops chair in the past. She is the mother of a Sandy Hook School third grader and kindergarten twins, who were not at the school on 12/14.

Ms Holden is the mother of a first grader at the school, and on 12/14 both women were walking toward the school when they heard the first shots.

They had never met before, but together they sought shelter and safety in the parking lot. They huddled and prayed.

“We both have felt the need to do something,” said Ms Holden, “and this is our something.”

The comfort and support showed to them that day by one police officer at the scene foreshadowed the help that would eventually overflow the town.

“We had never met before that day, but now we’re inseparable friends,” said Ms Sibley in an e-mail to The Bee. “And [we] feel like this is one small way we can say thank you to the brave officers who arrived to protect us and our children and our community that horrific day.”

Once Ms Holden and Ms Sibley had passed their concept of Valentines For Heroes by Sandy Hook School Interim Principal Donna Pagé and the school’s staff, word of the effort was spread to school parents.

Eventually 66 people registered to help by baking, sorting the baked goods, and/or deliver the goodies to all the “heroes.” By Tuesday, February 12, more people had stopped by to help or offer baked goods. One family from Brookfield stopped by to offer their contributions on Tuesday.

Ms Holden said parents were asked to bake over the weekend and drop the cookies off at the Newtown United Methodist Church on Monday, February 11, and sorting was completed by volunteers on Tuesday.

Help was found in Big Y World Class Market, which donated cases for the cookies to be sorted into, and My Place Pizza & Restaurant, which provided food for the volunteers on Tuesday.

Ms Holden said people baked between three and 20 dozen cookies each. Many Sandy Hook School moms and dads, she said, told her baking for the officers was the “perfect thing to do.” She also said Valentines For Heroes is a way of healing for those involved.

After sorting of the bakes goods was completed on Tuesday, each package was finished with the student-written valentines, a card noting the gift as the “Cookies of Kindness,” and a green bow.

Photo: Eliza Hallabeck

Cookies and handmade valentines were dropped off at the Newtown United Methodist Church on Monday, February 11, for the Sandy Hook School Valentines For Heroes effort.

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