On Sunday, Oct. 27, the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Foundation (NJFMBA), NJEA, and other key players in the coastal community that was hit by Superstorm Sandy attended a ribbon cutting ceremony in Highlands for a new playground built n memory of Sandy Hook Elementary School student Daniel Barden, a victim of the Newtown tragedy. The playground is one of 26 new playgrounds being built as part of the Sandy Ground Project.
"As educators, we don't look at children as ' what is' but rather 'what could be'. We strive to enable our students to achieve their dreams and make society better,” said NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan during the ceremony. “Daniel had already exhibited the finest of qualities: his caring for others , his willingness to lend a hand-up, his aspiration to enter a noble field and become a firefighter. Daniel surpassed that 'what could be' to ' what WOULD be'. This playground is a true reflection of who he was and what he was all about. It will inspire countless others to achieve their dreams, make society better, make the 'could be' a 'will be'.
As part of the ceremony, a portrait of Daniel painted by Henry Hudson Regional School art teacher Patricia Elliot was presented, along with a banner signed by all students in the school. The Star Spangled Banner and Taps were also performed as part of a trumpet solo by band director Jeffrey Starr.
The Sandy Ground Project
The Sandy Ground Project’s goal is to build 26 playgrounds, in memory for each of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook, CT shootings. NJEA has actively participated in supporting this effort through its “Pennies for Playgrounds” fundraising efforts and has donated thousands of dollars to the fund. The project’s founder, Bill Lavin, a New Jersey firefighter and president of the NJ State Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA), was recently recognized as a “Hero Among Us” by People magazine.