Newtown Overwhelmed by Nation’s Generosity

Nine-year-old Alexandra Gebelli of Portland, Connecticut, in the foreground, visited the memorial to the shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School with her mother, Deborah Gibelli.

The donations have poured in – from Indiana, Montana, Virginia and just about everywhere else, it seems.

Kids and grownups, saddened and angered by the killings of 20 first-graders and six grownups at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have showered the town with all sorts of gifts – toys, teddy bears, flowers, money, even free food.

“There’s so much stuff coming in,” said Tom Mahoney, the building administrator at Newtown’s town hall, in an interview with the Associated Press (AP).  “To be honest, it’s a bit overwhelming.”

In Elkhart, Indiana, some kids at North Side Middle School decided to raise money for the victims’ families by holding a pajama fundraiser.

According to Elkhart TV station WSJV, kids who donated a dollar were allowed to wear their pajamas to school on December 21st.

The fundraiser was so successful that they reportedly raised $1,520.

“It made me feel good, because I know people aren’t just thinking about themselves,” North Side student Megan Paritz told WSJV reporter Amanda Tetlak.  “They’re caring for others.”

In East Helena, Montana, Christopher Shields and his friends reportedly raised more than $100 by selling their own toys during lunch and recess.

“The shooting was very, very devastating,” said Christopher, a 4th grader at Radley Elementary School, in an interview with Helena TV station KTVH.  “So we are just trying to help out.”

And in Roanoke, Virginia, some kids at James Madison Middle School turned a powder-puff football game into a fundraiser for the Sandy Hook survivors.

“It’s such a terrible tragedy that we’ve wanted to do something about it,” eighth-grader Carsen Koviak told Roanoke TV station WSLS.

“We were already planning to do the powder-puff game to raise money,” seventh-grader Anamaria Barrios told Roanoke TV station WDBJ.  “(So) we decided to help out the (Sandy Hook) kids to show that we really care.”

Newtown officials say all the flowers, cards and other items people have sent will be incorporated into a permanent Sandy Hook memorial.

And a lot of the teddy bears and toys have already been distributed to anyone who wanted them.

“We’re not checking ID’s at the door,” Mahoney told the AP.  “If there is a child from another town who comes in need of a toy, we’re not going to turn (him or her) away.”

So much has come into Newtown that town has run out of room to store all the gifts, according to Isabel Almeida, an official with the United Way of Western Connecticut.

While the people of Newtown really appreciate all the generosity, she says there are other constructive ways to express it.

“Send those teddy bears to a school in your (own) community or an organization that serves low-income children,” she suggested, in an interview with the AP.  “And do it in memory of our children.”