NHS Graduates Planning Boston Event To Benefit Children’s Museum

The “Night For Newtown At Fenway Park” is a special fundraiser for the anticipated EverWonder Children’s Museum in Newtown, coordinated by Newtown High School graduates currently living in Boston.

In response to the tragedy of 12/14, nine young people found themselves pulled together, and like so many others, asking what they could do to help ease the pain in their hometown.

“After all of us went home for the holidays and experienced what the rest of the town was going through, there was a huge disconnect upon returning to Boston,” recalled Will Jacob, a 2006 graduate, and added, “I think it was a tough thing for us to come to terms with — to feel like the sorrow from our small corner of the world was already forgotten.”

“We knew there was money being donated to Newtown,” said Sarah Salbu, also a 2006 NHS graduate and one of the organizers in Boston. Even though the former Newtowners had not been in touch in recent months, the shootings on 12/14 found the Bostonites seeking each other out, through Facebook and other social media, she said. “There were lots of e-mails back and forth with stuff like, ‘I’m so happy to have you in my life.’ We got together about a month ago,” said Ms Salbu, “and asked ourselves what we could do, with a specific designation.”

“Basically, Jill [Tanner, Class of 2006] reached out to us, feeling like we should do something, and I had chatted with [former classmate] Tory Marlin about the group ‘New Yorkers For Newtown’ she and a few others put together, and we went from there,” said Mr Jacob. “We started brainstorming something as small as a $10 cover at a bar downtown, to larger scale venues,” he said.

“Jill and Erin [Clark, Class of 2006] kind of pulled it together,” agreed Ms Salbu, “and then it just snowballed.”

“We wanted to show our hometown that we haven’t forgotten, and we never will. In memory of those lost and in support of our town’s healing, Newtown deserves a night to honor the prevailing message: It’s not easy, but with your help, with everyone’s help, we’ll get there,” said Mr Jacob.

Having heard that the EverWonder Children’s Museum, which hopes to open a permanent space in Newtown by 2016, was trying to move swiftly to install a temporary version of the museum, following 12/14, the group decided they would put their efforts toward helping EverWonder Children’s Museum achieve the funding needed to do so.

The museum seemed an ideal project, particularly since EverWonder Children’s Museum is the brainchild of Newtown parents Kristin and Chris Chiriatti, and was supported by the late Dawn Hochsprung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Erin Clark (2006), Alissa Gross (2006), Will Jacob (2006), Allison Jagoe (2008), Laura and Peter Oggeri (2006), Sarah Salbu (2006), Eddie Small (2006), and Jill Tanner (2006) pooled their talents and contacts, and although initially concerned about hosting an event for up to 500 guests, put the Night For Newtown together quickly. According to Ms Salbu, as of February 26, they had already confirmed 396 reservations.

The “Night For Newtown At Fenway Park” will be a catered reception (featuring Fenway Franks), with beer donated by sponsor Samuel Adams of Boston. Sponsorship by Poland Springs allows the evening to take place at the State Street Pavilion, Fenway Park, Yawkey Way, Saturday, March 23, from 7 pm to midnight. Additionally, photography for the event is donated by Edson Dias from Dias Photography.


A Work In Progress

Members of We Are Newtown will be at the Night For Newtown, with T-shirts for sale, ribbons created by community members and wristbands from Newtown Proud, Newtown Strong will be available for purchase, and photographs from the Love Is Louder group will be on display. Organizers plan to show a television loop of photos and video from EverWonder Children’s Museum throughout the evening.

“We’ll have friends, parents, colleagues, and hopefully a few special guests making an appearance. The night is an ever-evolving work in progress,” Mr Jacob said, “being shaped by the generosity of so many.”

Presale tickets of $65 per person, or $45 for those under age 21, will allow guests at Night For Newtown to enjoy not only food and drink, but music by Flipside, a high-energy Boston dance band, and a silent auction. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to EverWonder Children’s Museum, said Ms Salbu. Tickets are currently on sale at www.newtowninboston.com/buy-tickets or at newtowninboston.eventbrite.com/#.

Donations are welcomed at either website. “We are working to secure a minimum of $20,000, with a stretch goal of $25,000 to $30,000 to support future museum programming,” said Ms Salbu.

According to information provided by EverWonder Children’s Museum for the “Night For Newtown At Fenway Park” Facebook page, “Donations received will assist us in securing the exhibits that will be rotated through the space, fund any programming that we are not successful in getting donated (but for which it is determined there is a need/demand) and to fund any other operating costs.”

EverWonder has identified a 13-piece science and motion traveling exhibit at the Science Center of Ithaca in New York that it would like to purchase with funds raised from the Night For Newtown, said Chris Chiriatti. “It aligns with our mission and targeted age group, in this instance, of 5- to 12-year-olds,” he said.

Not all of the 13 pieces will fit into the proposed temporary space, he said, but several of the pieces will be installed at a time. The exact site of the temporary museum and specific opening date will be disclosed within the next few weeks, Mr Chiriatti said.

“We think it’s great that there is another group of Newtowners banded together to support the community, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to use these funds to make an immediate and direct impact on the community,” he added.

“This is a very special cause, and as a group of Newtown High School alumni, we thought it was a very fitting way for us to give back to the children and students of Newtown,” Mr Jacob said.

The Night For Newtown will benefit EverWonder, but the organizers find that it is a healing event for themselves, too.

“Once or twice a week our group meets, and our planning sessions have turned into three-hour dinners spent catching up. Every meeting is bittersweet. We all feel so fortunate to have our paths cross again nearly seven years after graduating from NHS,” said Mr Jacob, “but we don’t forget the unfortunate circumstances of our first meeting.”

“It’s sort of a way to celebrate that we’re here together, and that we’re friends, and take stock of it,” said Ms Salbu.


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