Extraordinary Trip, Extraordinary Kids

To the Editor:

As chaperones of the Ben’s Lighthouse sponsored work camp in Oklahoma, we want to praise each and every one of the youth who took part in the trip:  Aimee Alexander, Alana Murray, Austen Wagner, Brenna Kelly, Dan Harrison, Elizabeth Calabrese, Eric Benson, Erica Thill, Jeff Haylon, Jessica Delp, Joe Fiorella, Katie Clark, Maggie Kost, Marissa Thill, Matt Gonzalez, Mergim Bajraliu, Patrick Pierce, Tess Murray, and Trystan Wagner.

To a person, these teens conducted themselves with dignity and represented Newtown in a way that should make the whole town proud.  They worked hard, they bonded with each other and with the youth and adults from other states who formed the 20 work crews, and they comported themselves with grace in emotionally challenging situations.

This trip came about as the result of an invitation from a Christian organization, Group Mission Trips, who runs faith-based work camps complete with group worship and devotions. We suspected (and were proven correct) that this trip would attract conservative Christian youth groups with whom we would interact throughout the week. Nonetheless, we made the conscious decision, with the okay from the organizers, to invite Newtown kids regardless of faith background. The only caveat was that they participate in the programs and be respectful of the beliefs of the hosts and other participants.

The results were extraordinary. We witnessed friendships being formed, divergent beliefs being discussed with civility, and young people with profoundly different backgrounds working together towards a common goal.  (And, by the way, the Newtown kids worked really, really hard!)

We thank the parents for entrusting us with their children and we thank each of the young women and men for respecting and honoring our role as chaperones.


Rick Haylon

Paget Haylon

Jennifer Peterson

Rob Ryder

Pastor Kathie Adams-Shepherd

36 Main Street, Newtown July 30, 2013

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