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“Don’t be sad it’s over, smile because it happened,” is a phrase among encouraging words hand painted on stones decorated by Caitlin Nelson’s family and friends during a Celebration of Kindness and day of remembrance on October 27 at the Resiliency Center of Newtown. Caitlin had been a volunteer at the center, which offers “trauma informed services focused on long-term individual and community healing for children and adults impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012,” as stated at resiliencycenterofnewtown.org. Joining her mother, Roseann Nelson, and sister, Anne Vetri, were Caitlin’s Sacred Heart Kappa Delta sorority sisters joining Resiliency Center staff, where the young woman had been a volunteer. Caitlin, 20, died following a pancake-eating contest at Sacred Heart, in March.
Written on Ms Vetri’s stone: “Tis better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Children at the center also decorated stones, which they soon placed into loose soil where flower seeds will wait for spring’s warmth to bloom. Children from the Sandy Hook/Newtown community were invited to participate.
Outside in the late October sun, Alexis McIney and Adeline Garcia planted seeds in small window boxes, where the painted stones will rest this winter.
Two young RCN participants, Teagan Waaler and Amanda Faircloth, decorated their stones with flowers and phrases, adding their own thoughts to the celebration.
RCN founder and Director Stephanie Cinque glanced at the children, students, and staff all gathered for Caitlin.
“She loved butterflies,” Ms Cinque said, but later that afternoon, rather than releasing butterflies, which was not possible in late October, participants released bubbles and a cluster of vibrant balloons in “happy fall colors.”
Ms Cinque said she “just chose a day” to hold Caitlin’s celebration, pleased to welcome Ms Nelson and Ms Vestri.
Ms Nelson donated a plaque in memory of her daughter, which will remain with the RCN. Written on the plaque: “Her kindness created an everlasting ripple effect throughout the community.”
Once finished planting seeds and painting stones, guests gathered outside the front door where they either silently placed their rocks in the planters, or paused to share a few words. Amid tears, both Caitlin’s mother and sister spoke, Ms Vetri talking about “turning tragedy into something positive.”
Eager hands soon grabbed for the cluster of balloons as more than a dozen were then released, sailing higher against the pale blue sky. Laughing, Elisa LeMack and Amy Ricotta blew bubbles that shimmered against the sky.
Then guests stood silently as bubbles and balloons drifted away.