Playgrounds Honoring Newtown Victims Going Up in Sandy-Ravaged Towns [AUDIO]
The vicious storm that rocked the East Coast shares a name with the elementary school where 26 lives were lost in Newtown, Connecticut.
The eerie connection aside, the New Jersey Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA) is looking to honor the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, while giving hope to those who are rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy with the construction of 26 state-of-the-art playgrounds in storm-ravaged towns. The project is entitled "The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play" and will include ten playgrounds in New Jersey, ten in New York and 6 in Connecticut.
FMBA President Bill Lavin came up with the idea while he was watching a touching video of a young Mississippi girl thanking New Jersey firefighters for building a playground in her area after Hurricane Katrina. The girl was sending gifts to New Jersey children who suffered as a result of Sandy.
"It was so moving watching this young girl pay it forward that it gave me the idea to build playgrounds, not only in New Jersey, but in New York and Connecticut to do two things; first, to help restore battered communities along the coast and second, to honor and memorialize the children and teachers in Newtown."
Every playground will be built with the blessing from each family.
"We reached out to the families and once we explained what we were doing, they loved the idea. The idea is to build the playground and to have a portion of it reflect the personality and interests of the child or person that it is honoring," said Lavin.
"We realize that many people lost their homes and their belongings and so many other things. We just feel that playgrounds symbolize hope and for so many children who lost so much, it's somewhere for them to go and get away from the stress of the things their families have been going through to just be kids and to play and have fun," said Lavin. "It's also a way to remember the angels that we lost while the angels that are our children who are still here can continue to be kids and enjoy themselves."
The first playground will be built in Sea Bright, New Jersey. Other locations in the Garden State include Ocean City, Normandy Beach, Long Branch, Union Beach, Point Pleasant Beach and Belmar. Each playground is expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 depending on where they are located and what the amenities are. Eight of the 26 playgrounds already have received funding from various organizations, but additional funds will be needed.