It took us weeks before we read William Lavin’s letter to us. There was too much grief to bear. Even reading letters of condolence was impossible.
When we had the strength, we started to read the letters we received from around the nation and world. Among the many letters was one in particular, from William Lavin and the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Foundation, Inc. This letter sang to our spirits. A generous act of kindness was being offered, an offer that would benefit so very many children – a gift to a community ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, a gift for children, a playground in the honor of our daughter, Avielle, was being offered.
Children are the foundation of our country, our country’s FUTURE. Children need safe, clean, and beautiful outdoor spaces in which to climb, run, jump, laugh, and explore. My husband and I thank you Mr. Lavin and the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Foundation, Inc. for creating these spaces so important to the community.
When you and your children are on the playground dedicated to Avielle, look for fairies and their homes, laugh openly, climb a tree, play tag, blow dandelion seeds to the wind, hop on one leg for one full minute, swing higher than the clouds, fly a kite, hide behind a boulder, eat apples and blueberries, be a monkey on the bars, and see the beautiful polka dots, stripes, and squiggles that make up the landscape of a child’s heart.
- Jennifer Hensel & Jeremy Richman – Avielle’s parents
One of our little Emilie’s favorite things to do was play endless hours in a playground running, jumping and laughing. Playgrounds were not just playgrounds in her eyes. They became her castle, her spaceship and countless other beautiful destinations only a sweet child’s imagination could go. It was a place she could truley fly. As her parents, we are touched by The Sandy Project and for all the children this will bring smiles to. There is no better way to honor our little angles than to bring joy to those who need it most, children.
- Alissa Parker, Emilie’s Mom
It was so nice to meet you and Brian today. I am so honored to have Olivia and her memory be part of such an inspiring project. This is such a wonderful way to remember and honor our 26 Angels as well as to bring communities together.
I just wanted to let you know some of the things Olivia liked so you can incorporate some into the playground. She loved the color purple! She loved dogs, flowers, butterflies, and all things girly She also loved boating on the sound. Perhaps a boat and ship’s wheel could be incorporated? She also loved to swing on the tire swing with her friends at our local playground.
- Shannon Engel, Olivia’s Mom
It was wonderful meeting with you. This is a wonderful thing that you are doing. We know Caroline would have loved it. She loved playgrounds. Thank you again for your efforts!
Caroline’s favorite color was pink. She loved to swing,paint,draw. She loved dancing and singing and performing her dances for others!! She also played soccer and loved it.
Let me know if you need anything else. Thank you again for your prayers.
- Sandy Previdi, Caroline’s Mom
We are proud to partner with the NJ state firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association in their project ”The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play”. They are building a playground in Normandy Beach, NJ to honor our son Chase by helping the children and families in the community devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Our goal is to help in the healing of our communities and what better way to start then by building a community play ground named “Chase’s Place” where children and families can enjoy their precious time together. Peace and love to all that have made this project possible including the little girl in Mississippi who sparked the idea of giving back to the NJ community in the aftermath of Sandy. This is such a wonderful act of kindness and another example of how we can each make a difference by paying it forward!
- Rebecca Kowalski, Chase’s Mother
I heard through the Hockley’s about you and the NJ State Firefighters wanting to build or re-build playgrounds in memory of those who were lost, including my daughter Charlotte. Both my wife, JoAnn, and I think this is a wonderful act of kindness on your behalf and we would be very pleased to see this happen.
- Joel Bacon, Charlotte’s Dad
So nice to meet you all today. Jesse, JT and I are honored by your efforts and feel these playgrounds will be a blessing to all children as they live, laugh and love through play.
That is beautiful to see that out of such devestation and tragedy a pheonix can rise of love, created out of compassion and good will, that will cause a ripple affect felt round the globe filled with the sound of children’s laughter.
- Scarlett Lewis, Jesse’s Mom
I just received a letter from a Newtown selectman about your amazing efforts. I am Andrew Rousseau, Lauren Rousseau’s younger brother. I am responding for the family in that you can absolutely use her name to name a playground. The entire family loved the idea. It sounds amazing what you are doing.
- Andrew Rousseau, Lauren’s Brother
Our family would be honored to accept your offer to construct a living memorial dedicated to Anne Marie and the children she dearly loved.Please feel free to contact me directly for any assistance you may require in your endeavors.
- Michael & Family (Kelly, Colleen, Thomas & Paige), Ann Marie’s Family
When I first learned about the playground project I immediately responded knowing Vicki would have loved the idea. Vicki’s love for teaching was evident to everyone that knew her and this will be a very special tribute and honor. She loved her “kids” and this will be a special place for kids to play with special touches for “Vicki”, hopefully there will be enough Flamingo’s for everyone. Thank you again for making this possible. The support from all over the country has been overwhelming we appreciate you thinking of our family in this project.
- Donna Soto, Victoria’s Mom
We were respectfully contacted by Bill Lavin through the Newtown First Selectmans office. Bill came up to Newtown and met with us to discuss the project. He showed us the great work that his team had done in Mississipi after Hurricane Katrina.
It’s wonderful that we can give design input to make the park special for Dylan’s memory; there will be purple, his favorite color, green and white the colors of Sandy Hook School, and butterflies. Dylan’s brother Jake will be involved in the construction as honorary foreman; Jake is excited to create something meaningful for future for other children to enjoy.
The dedication of Bill and his team to make this come true for the 26 families is truly inspiring and we thank them for this dedication in Dylan’s memory.
You and your team are doing an AMAZING job. It’s the perfect memorial, not a stone statue or something listing names and dates, it’s places that families can come and be happy.
- Ian and Nicole Hockley, Dylan’s Parents
I received the letter about the playgrounds that you all rebuilding and dedicating to the children who’s lives were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. Catherine Hubbard is my daughter. We would be humbled to have a playground dedicated in her name. Going to the playground was one of the favorite Sunday afternoon family outings-she would climb and jump and swing so high, she was convinced she was touching the clouds. I know that she is thrilled with the prospect of having a park in her honor. Thank you for remembering her in such a special way. Please let me know if there is anything you may need from my husband and me. With our sincere appreciation.
- Jenny and Matt Hubbard, Catherine’s Parents
We are honored that you and your team have decided to create a playground in Jessica’s name. We feel this is a wonderful tribute to our little girl, as well as to the other victims of this horrible tragedy. We look forward to working with you to honor our daughter.
- Krista and Rich Rekos, Jessica’s Parents
We cannot imagine a more fitting tribute for Noah than a playground designed to offer children years of play and interaction with others in their community. It is a living memorial and we could not be happier that our son’s memory will be honored in this way. Thanks again. We are most grateful.
- Lenny and Veronique Pozner, Noah’s Parents
- That is fantastic! It was great to read and even better to see the smile on Freddy’s face as I tell him the news. As I told you Friday, this is such a special way to remember all those we lost at Sandy Hook. I can already hear the kids laughing and yelling as they run around on Catherine’s playground. I can hear the swing creaking as the kids pump their feet and touch the clouds. I see a community coming together in the midst of their own healing to simply forget their worries if only for a moment. Kids can be kids and parents can breathe a little lighter knowing that they will all we watched over by the 26 angels for whom you all are building.We are so excited to help make this a reality. We look forward to hearing from you soon.Thank You again, Jenny
- Jen Hubbard