Six community organizations have come together to present “A Day of Shared Experience,” Saturday, May 31, from 9:15 am to 2:30 pm, at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel. The Community Connections event is being organized by The Resiliency Center of Newtown, Sandy Hook Promise, Newtown/Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Inc, Walnut Hill Community Church, the Town of Newtown, and Newtown Public Schools as a means of helping people understand the trauma experienced 12/14, and developing understanding. It will also serve as a means to learn about coping skills that have worked for others who have experienced trauma similar to that of 12/14. Attendees will hear from keynote speaker Dr Kevin Becker, and will also have the opportunity to hear from survivors and relatives of tragedies that took place at Chardon High School, Columbine High School, the Nickel Mines Amish community, and Virginia Tech, among other speakers.
A wooden tower and series of ramps rose last Wednesday at Dickinson Park, filling the place where FunSpace used to be. The old playground, built in 1989, that had offered a place for recreation until it was closed in early October and razed soon after, is being replaced by another play space. Dan Corsetti of Pat Corsetti Inc watched as his crews ran machinery and installed playground features including the center tower on May 7. Progress continues, but construction still has “a couple of months to go” before completion, Mr Corsetti said.
An aspiring recording artist whose first single is available on iTunes is committing his talents to help lift the spirits of attendees at this year’s Newtown Relay For Life. Gregori Lukas, also an accomplished dancer and actor, has committed to donating all proceeds from the sale of his single, “Stay,” on the iTunes digital music service to benefit this year’s tenth Newtown Relay. He will also take to the stage at this year’s event, set for Saturday, May 31, at Newtown High School’s Blue & Gold Stadium, to sing that number live as one of the 2014 Relay’s featured entertainers. Mr Lukas was first introduced to the Newtown Relay by longtime volunteer Michelle Babyak. He is the latest celebrity performer to grace the local awareness and fundraising activity, joining Connecticut-based artist and star of The Voice Javier Colon, who performed at two previous Relays.
With the endorsement of the Connecticut Senate in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation is one step closer to establishing a permanent animal sanctuary in Newtown. Provided Governor Dannel Malloy signs off on the action and subsequent administrative reviews and approvals occur, the foundation established in the memory of the young 12/14 victim will receive a conveyance of 34.44 acres of state agricultural property adjacent to Newtown’s animal control facility and newly christened dog park. The initiative, championed by State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky, DebraLee Hovey, and Dan Carter and Senator John McKinney, is one of several conveyances that were approved in late action by the legislature.
Hawley Elementary School teacher Stephanie Dunshee is fighting cancer, and her friend Renee Wilson wants to help. Ms Wilson has established a fundraising effort through her business, Total Performance Sports & Fitness, which is donating 100 percent of proceeds for members and nonmembers who attend certain boot camp workout sessions. The program began in late April, and continues daily until June 29. Ms Wilson said that boot camp guests can work with an instructor to use equipment both indoors and outside. Part of the fitness goals she promotes include shocking the body into working harder and burning fat, she said. Fitness workouts are “geared toward an athletic edge.”
With its brick façade going up, the six-bay garage slab in, and interior drywall giving the structure shape, Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Association’s new headquarters is moving forward and starting to look like a new building. It is still several months away from completion, however. Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps member Stuart Rieve said that mid-August will “hopefully” see the project, which broke ground last July, primarily finished. He walked the site May 6, noting portions of new sidewalk, the foundation for the main driveway entrance off Wasserman Way, a roof that is mostly shingled, and an area of recessed ground where an outdoor patio will be. Mr Rieve met up with Jim Cookson with Nosal Builders Inc, and the two looked at the emerging building as it joins the landscape of roughly 80-year-old former state hospital buildings occupying the Fairfield Hills campus.
The mother of one of the girls killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting says she does not consider the graffiti found on a Sandy Ground playground built in Hartford in March for her daughter to be vandalism. The message found spray painted May 4 at the Ana Marquez Greene Memorial playground read “Peace to Sandy Hook,” using a peace sign and the numeral 2. The spray-paint message found Sunday and later removed also included a graffiti tag. Nelba Marquez Greene said someone just wanted to send a message of peace and equated it to the stuffed animals that victims’ families received after the December 2012 shooting. Ms Marquez Greene says she now plans to raise money to put up a graffiti board at the playground, so that if other kids want to leave condolence messages, there is a place for them. Unfortunately, this was not the first time one of the Sandy Ground playgrounds has been disturbed or vandalized.
Back in 2004, when Dianne deVries established the nonprofit Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding (CCJEF), two Fairfield County community leaders were among the first to throw support behind the cause — then-Stamford mayor Dannel Malloy, and former Newtown First Selectman Herb Rosenthal. Today, Governor Dannel Malloy has reverted to an oppositional position, while Mr Rosenthal has remained active with the coalition as president and Newtown’s representative of the CCJEF Steering Committee. the coalition has a simple, three-point agenda: revamp the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula and related grants to reflect the real cost of adequately preparing all students for college or advanced training, the modern workforce, and productive citizenship; ensure that adequate and equitable school funding is distributed fairly for all students and their municipalities; and shift the lion’s share of funding for school operations away from local property taxes and onto the state.
After many, many hours of work by Legislative Council Ordinance Chair Ryan Knapp and his colleagues, several information forums on the proposal, and a sparsely attended public hearing, the full council unanimously approved an upgraded senior tax relief program May 7. One aspect of the new ordinance will take effect immediately, activating a component providing up to $800 in tax relief to several dozen qualifying applicants in a newly established income tier this year. The balance of the ordinance’s new tenants will go into effect beginning with the 2015 round of tax relief applications. During full council deliberation on the matter, Vice Chair Neil Chaudhary motioned the ordinance to include several nonsubstantive changes that moved the extended 2014 application deadline of June 15 to June 1, to accommodate the tax collector’s office. The proposal was also amended to incorporate language including medical expense deductions beginning with the 2015 application period. Councilman Robert Merola reminded his colleagues that Newtown’s senior tax program already is among the most generous in the state. First Selectman Pat Llodra asserted that only Redding’s tax relief program exceeds the generosity of Newtown’s at the current $1.65 million level.