'Look for the helpers...'

By Caroline Klapper | Dec 17, 2012
Photo by: File photo

In the aftermath of the tragic school shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, discussions have already begun about gun control, mental health issues and what can be done to prevent such a heartbreaking event from ever occurring again.

And while I have my opinions on the matter, I have no sure solutions. What I do know is that 26 people died that day — 20 of them children — in an unspeakable act of violence. I know that the lives of the surviving children and their families will never be the same, and I know that there is little I can do that will help.

But there is one thing that stuck out for me in the midst of the media circus surrounding this tragedy. It was a simple quote from the brilliant Mr. Rogers, which someone posted on Facebook.

It read: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

And it’s true.

From the teachers in the school who protected the children in their care (some at the cost of their lives) to those who will continue to offer care and support for the survivors and families affected, there are always helpers.

For my part, I’d like to start focusing on ways to help, too. Although we can’t all physically be there to help the victims of the shooting, there are things we can do, ideas we can share and ways we can help start the healing process.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve seen from others or come up with myself that I hope people will think about. Some of these ideas are things you or I might not be able to help with, but others are things we can all do from wherever we are.

• Remember the name of at least one victim.

Although remembering a person’s name can never bring that person back, making sure those that lost their lives are never forgotten ensures that their memories live on within us. You can take it a step further by planting a tree in memory of that person, donating a library book, or making a donation to a children’s organization in that individual’s name.

• Make our schools the best they can be.

I’d love to see a group of artists, architects and construction workers willing to volunteer time and materials to turn the Newtown school into a happy, fun place again. They could paint bright, colorful murals in the halls, where those kids last saw broken glass and horror. They could add a new playground, and put some fresh paint on the walls. They could make sure that while it is the same school, it's also a good place to be again.

School should always be a safe place of fun and learning for children, and even if we can’t help in Connecticut, we can make sure that is true of our schools here at home. While there are many ways to help locally, the Haywood County Schools Foundation at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us/blog/ provides scholarships and grants to schools, teachers and students in our school system, and it’s a good place to start giving back to our children.

• Volunteer

Nothing can take away the horror of what the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School experienced last week, but I am sure there are people bringing whatever energy, knowledge and experience they can offer to help the survivors of this tragedy begin to recover. But it shouldn’t take a tragedy to prompt all of us to get involved in our community. Whether it’s volunteering some time to help out at a school or soup kitchen, an animal shelter or a food pantry, any way we can better our community and reach out to one another to show we care is a good thing.

• Donate directly.

Those wishing to help Newtown families directly with a monetary donation have a number of groups and funds to choose from:

—   Newtown Youth and Family Services is collecting donations for people directly affected by the shooting. Donations can be sent via “Caroline’s Gift,” a fund set up in the 1990s by a local family in memory of their daughter. The address is 15 Berkshire Road, Sandy Hook, CT 06482. For information, call 203-426-8103.

—   Newtown Parent Connection is accepting donations on its website www.newtownparentconnection.org. For information, call 203-270-1600.

—    The Newtown Memorial Fund has set up a private fund to help the families of those who died in the shooting and to raise funds for the design and construction of a memorial for the community. The website is at http://newtownmemorialfund.org/.

—    United Way of Western Connecticut is accepting donations for the victims of the shooting in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank. Online donations can be made at https://newtown.uwwesternct.org.

Check donations may be mailed to:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470

Just remember, there are always helpers. You just have to look for them, or better yet, be one of them.