Twenty children and six adults, representing the victims of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, broke ground March 1 at Sea Bright, N.J. on the first of 26 playgrounds that will be constructed in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut coastal communities hit by Hurricane Sandy. Each playground will be named for one of the victims of the massacre in Newtown, Conn. last December.
The Sea Bright playground is dedicated to Anne Marie Murphy, who died with the body of six-year-old Dylan Hockley in her arms as she tried to shield him from the gunman.
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan represented New Jersey’s teachers and educational support professionals at the groundbreaking, which took place at sunrise. NJEA has partnered with the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Foundation (NJFMBA) to provide funds for the playgrounds.
In addition to NJFMBA and NJEA, the Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore along with regional businesses and individuals have provided funds and donated their expertise, labor, and supplies to build the playgrounds.
Volunteers began to offload materials and build the playground immediately after the groundbreaking.
Mississippi gratitude inspires effort
The idea for the playgrounds came from NJFMBA. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NJFMBA had built several playgrounds, among other relief efforts, in Mississippi.
NJFMBA President William Lavin explained that after Hurricane Sandy, the communities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, Miss. collected Christmas gifts for New Jersey children affected by the storm in an effort to “pay it forward” to those who had shown such kindness to them in their hour of need.
Karli Coyne, a nine-year-old girl from Waveland, had sent a letter to Lavin thanking the firefighters and EMTs for building her neighborhood playground. She thanked them for caring.
“We will build these playgrounds, rebuild our communities, and honor childhood,” Lavin said. “The playgrounds will be our commitment to the legacy of those we celebrate who cannot be with us today.”
Mayor Dina Long expressed her gratitude that Sea Bright was chosen as the site of the first playground.
“This is not just a safe place to play,” she said. “It is a symbol of hope, renewal, and recovery.”
“Pennies for Play”
The estimated cost for each playground is approximately $80,000 to $90,000.
NJEA is working with NJFMBA so that members and their students can easily participate in raising funds to build the playgrounds. “Pennies for Play” will be a way for all children in New Jersey to make a difference for girls and boys who saw their lives transformed by Hurricane Sandy.
See this flier for more information on “Pennies for Play."
To learn more visit The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play. The project also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
|NJEA MEMBERS: Here’s how you can use the PRIDE program to organize your members and community to help build The Sandy Ground playgrounds.