Gestures of Kindness, Part Six: From African Children To Local Hoopsters, Support Continues

(This is the sixth 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.)

*To honor Catherine Hubbard, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced this week that it is inscribing a leaf on its Tree of Life monument at its Norfolk, Va., headquarters with a message that reads: “In Loving Memory Of Catherine Violet Hubbard | Friend To All Animals.”

PETA announced the beautiful gesture through its official blog, The PETA Files, on Thursday, February 21. The tree is wall art twinkling with hundreds of golden leaves, most representing a $5,000 donation “to commemorate milestones such as births or anniversaries, to honor those still living, or to pay tribute to the memory of a departed loved one,” according to the organization’s website.

“Catherine loved to watch baby birds in their nests and reveled in having butterflies land on her. She doted on her beloved rabbit, Flopsy, and would help her elderly, arthritis-stricken dog, Samantha, to her feet when she struggled,” Alisa Mullins wrote for part of the blog. The 6-year old’s mother, Jenny, told PETA that Catherine used to tell insects “Tell all your friends I’m kind,” so that they would “all feel welcome and safe,” the post continued.

Before Catherine’s funeral, her parents had asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Animal Center in Newtown. So far, more than $200,000 has been donated in Catherine’s name.

Catherine had dreamed of establishing her own animal shelter one day, and The Animal Center plans to use the money raised in her name to build the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, where children can visit and learn about animals rescued from abusive situations.

“Each of us can pay tribute to Catherine by trying to live like she would: by taking a stray cat to a shelter, stopping to help a turtle cross the road, or walking a neighbor’s dog. These are the kinds of things that Catherine would do if she were here — and the things she would teach others to do by her example,” Ms Mullins said of Catherine, whom she described as a “thoughtful, introspective redhead.”

PETA is also encouraging parents who want to raise compassionate kids like Catherine to urge their children “to take a page from Catherine’s book and tell all their friends that they’re kind.”

*The Newtown High School Nighthawks Girls Varsity team will travel to Mahwah, N.J., on Sunday, February 24, to participate in a fundraiser called Threes for Sandy Hook.

The Nighthawks will face the Saddle River Day School Rebels Benefits Girls Varsity team in a benefit game to be held in the 1,452-seat Bill Bradley Arena at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Saddle River Day School is a coeducational independent college preparatory day school for grades K-12.

An intense desire to help the community of Newtown led the Saddle River team to join Threes for Sandy Hook, a fundraising program created by the Newtown girls team. The program is simple: for every three-point shot made by a  player, a $3 donation will be made to fund that will be used for the community of Newtown. Over 700 players in New Jersey have reportedly begun raising funds, “and thousands of dollars have already been raised to date,” Seth Max, Director of Development at Saddle River Day School, said Friday, February 22.

“Right now, all of the funds are being collected and held for Newtown, while a 501(c)(3) fund is established,” Mr Max added. “It takes time to properly establish such a fund, but the intention is that a memorial basketball court will be established in Newtown with these funds. The court will be a tribute to those who lost their lives, and to Newtown.”

Newtown High School Athletic Director Greg Simons, NHS Nighthawks Girls Coach Jeremy O’Connell and Saddle River Rebels Girls Coach Danny Brown have all been collaborating on the effort, according to Mr Max.

“Coach Jeremy, Greg Simon, [Newtown First Selectman] Pat Llodra and the Town of Newtown are at the helm of where this goes,” said Mr Max.

The game has been approved by the Interscholastic State Athletic Conferences of New Jersey and Connecticut, and will not count towards the teams’ official record.

Prior to Sunday’s game, the involved schools will participate in a clinic on the court with the Rebels and Nighthawks players.

Eileen Lambert, head of Saddle River Day School, believes that the effort is about so much more than just raising funds for a worthy cause.

“The passion and energy for the Threes for Sandy Hook at Saddle River Day School comes from the incredible spirit of the players themselves, and their coach, Danny Brown, has matched their drive to help our school, and many other players in Bergen County, be part of the healing process for Newtown,” she stated. “This wonderful project will let student athletes build community over healing rather than anger.”

The relationship between Saddle Ridge and Newtown will not end after Sunday’s game, said Mr Max.

“The effort, the friendship, the partnership will go on indefinitely,” he said. “We want Newtown to know we are with them.”

An annual tournament between the schools is in the works, he said. Saddle Ridge players are already planning to visit Newtown next year, he added.

Meanwhile, the first match-up between the two teams is coming up quickly.

Doors open at 10:30 am Sunday, in part so an on-court pre-game clinic can be held with Rebels and Nighthawks players. Game-time is noon.

Admission is free, although organizers are suggesting a $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Every family who donates at the door, says Sandy Hook resident Kris Schwartz, will receive a green and white Hope Faith Love wristband. As of February Mr Schwartz, who designed the bracelets, had raised over $75,000 for various funds in Newtown through donations of at least $5 per wristband.

A special ceremony with dignitaries from New Jersey and Connecticut including Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra will take place at half-time.

“This is an effort initiated by our kids,” Mr Max said proudly. “Here we have kids, in the most benevolent way, showing us the power of sports. They have found a way to reach out, connect, and heal.”

*January 22-25, Norwich Technical High School held a series of events to honor and remember the victims and survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary School and the town of Newtown, according to the school’s blog. The events also raised funds for Sandy Hook Promise, the non-profit organization created by members of the Newtown community in response to 12/14. Most of the events were open to the community, not just students and staff of the high school.

Among the special events that week were Change for Change, in which students and staff were invited to sign a card created by the NT Graphics Department, and drop donations into a jug in the cafeteria, all to be delivered to Newtown.

The graphics department also reportedly made special Sandy Hook badges, according to The Norwalk Bulletin, which were sold as part of an additional fundraiser.

The NTHS Plumbing Department created a copper Remembrance Tree to remain on permanent display at the school. Leaves for the tree were sold for $20 each, and engraved with the names of each donor.

The Hairdressing, Barbering and Cosmetology Shop hosted a seven-hour cut-a-thon on January 23. Students and staff were able to pick from haircuts with blowdry, conditioning treatments, manicures and pedicures, paraffin waxing, facial waxing, thermal styles, blowdry/styling and updo styling. More than $1,000 was reportedly raised during that event.

The following day the school invited the public to join students and staff for a late afternoon vigil in front of the school. NTHS Music Students performing several pieces including “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “The Sharpest Thorn.”

Following the vigil, the Culinary Department put on a “Tip a Teacher Specialty Pasta Dinner” from 5-7 pm, with teachers serving as wait staff… with help from the Culinary students. The evening’s menu included salad with a choice of dressings, entrees such as Chicken Parmesan, Fettuccini Al Fredo and Eggplant Parmesan ($8 each), a children’s menu that offered Norwich Tech Grilled Cheese (“our famous grilled cheese served with crispy French fries and pickles), $5 each, and coffee, tea or lemonade for beverage choices. For those unable to stay for dinner, take-out was available.

A bake sale held in the lobby during the same time, sponsored by the National Honor Society and the school’s volleyball teams, was also conducted during the pasta dinner. The bake sale featured items donated by the National Honor Society and volleyball teams. Baked goods were donated by students, faculty, staff and parents.

On Friday, January 25, Norwich Tech students attended a rally to celebrate life, the school community, the Norwich community, and the importance of “connectedness,” according to the school’s blog.

*Animal rights supporter Jackie Hanrahan, a Queens, N.Y., native, recently visited the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia. Somehow, “despite not having electricity, the children [of the Chimfunshi grade school] had heard about the Sandy Hook tragedy and were very saddened by it,” according to Donald Tremblay, the publicist for Loyola School, of which Ms Hanrahan is an alumnae.

“To show the Sandy Hook victims and survivors that they were in the prayer of the Chimfunshi people,” Mr Tremblay continued, “the Chimfunshi children colored in drawings of Happy Hippo Billy.”

Why color drawings of a hippopotamus? Happy Hippo Billy was an orphaned baby female hippo who has been raised by the owners of the wildlife orphanage, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary. The children, according to a page at HappyHippoBilly.com that has been dedicated to Sandy Hook, wanted to color in pictures of Happy Hippo to give to their peers at Sandy Hook to let them know they care. A gallery of photos of the grade school children showing their finished photos has been posted. Photos show smiling children holding their beautiful colored pictures, with hippopotamuses colored red, turquoise, pink, purple, yellow and even multi-colored hippos.

In addition to the photos posted on the website (and a corresponding Facebook page), Ms Hanrahan “took photos of the children holding their colored-in hippos so that she can give the photos to the Sandy Hook Elementary School,” said Mr Tremblay.

*In January, Heather King and Ellen Seidman began a project that was to have its first public appearance on February 1: The 26Valentines Project.

“We’re writers and editors, and we’d like to honor the victims of Sandy Hook with stories. Our plan is to publish one essay per day during February across the web, on reputable and highly influential sites … in which the writers are respected and have committed audiences,” Ms King told The Newtown Bee on January 15.

Each writer, Ms King explained, was assigned to write a piece about one person who was killed at Sandy Hook School.

“We all realize we have no right to try to ‘honor’ those your community has lost. We didn’t know them,” she said. “This is a simple effort to express the realize that the rest of us can move on in ways you all cannot, and yet, we’re not forgetting. We care so much. We can’t do these victims justice, really.

“But we hope a glimpse of grace is felt with a glimpse of each of them each day this month in 26 different places across the web,” she continued. The hope, she said, what that the tributes would be seen and shared “far and wide, bringing these individual stories to the world.

“In a time when most people move on and have a tendency to think less and less of this tragedy, we feel passionately that the families should know that so many of us remember, and will continue to remember,” she added.

On February 1, however, a different announcement was made. Ms King’s blog (The Extraordinary Ordinary) and Ms Seidman’s blog (Love That Max) each had a brief announcement at the top of their home pages saying that they had decided to not move forward with The 26Valentines Project. “While this well-intentioned effort will be no more, we know we’ll all continue to honor these adults and children in our own ways,” the note continued.

According to details on Ms Seidman’s blog, “A person close to some of the families in Newtown got in touch. She knew the effort was well-meant, and said because of the horrific conspiracy theories floating around the web, the families are especially sensitive right now to online discussion about their loved ones.”

*Park & Recreation officials in Charlotte, N.C., announced plans on January 28, for a group of volunteers to build a playground in a park in the southern section of the city to remember the victims of 12/14.

“This project is about bringing the community together to remember those lost in Newtown,” said Park & Recreation Director Jim Garges.

Construction of the playground will begin in the this spring and is expected to about four or five days to complete. Hundreds of volunteers are expected to work on the job.

*A small group of seventh graders at Roton Middle School in Norwalk led an effort for classmates to remember and honor the victims of 12/14. The students, 14 of them, decided to organize what they called Love For Sandy Hook Day. The students, all members of Tyson Kaczmarek’s Language Arts class, reportedly came about after discussions among the students on how they could help and how they could make a difference.

On Monday, January 28, a corner of the school’s cafeteria became a memorial area. Members of Mr Kaczmarek’s class placed 20 teddy bears and six roses in the corner. Short biographies of each victim, researched by the seventh grade students and accompanied by photos of each victim, were hung in the memorial area.

As students entered the cafeteria that day for their lunch, notecards and paper were available for anyone who decided to write. Most took the opportunity to share an expression of sorrow or grief.

Many students dressed in Sandy Hook’s green and white colors that day.

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