NEWFANE – Children helping one another, in memory of children whose lives were cut tragically short, is the theme of a new book drive under way at Newfane Middle School.
Titled “Peace Begins With a Smile,” the project invites the community to donate new children’s and young adult books in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings one year ago. Stickers will be placed in the books denoting that they are gifts in memory of the Sandy Hook students, and the books will then be donated to the Newfane Free Library to be circulated back into the community.
“We’re excited about this,” said Newfane Middle School Principal Tom Adams. “We want to be supportive at the school. We also want to get the community involved.”
“We decided a book drive could benefit our community and the community of Sandy Hook,” Adams added. “This is a reminder of those lost and of the value of children.”
Adams said that the idea evolved through the suggestions from the family of a local dentist, Dr. Laura Littman, who has three children at the Middle School. She said she had been discussing community service projects with her daughter, Alexa, 13, who is president of the school’s National Junior Honor Society.
“Sandy Hook has really haunted me all year, and the kids needed a community service project, and this seemed to wrap it all together,” Littman said.
Decorative drop-off boxes have been placed at businesses throughout the community, and families are also encouraged to donate new books at a variety of Middle School events, including the student concerts Wednesday, Dec. 18 and Dec. 19; and the PTSA Movie Night at the Middle School on Friday. Students are also encouraged to place donated books in the boxes throughout the school day.
Organizers are planning a remembrance ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday in the Main Street gazebo.
“Our fifth-grade chorus will sing carols, and we encourage families to attend,” said Adams. “A couple of people will make brief speeches, we will have a candlelight vigil, and then, if people want to, they can walk to the Middle School for Family Movie Night.”
The books will be donated to the Newfane Free Library on Dec. 20.
Kris DeGlopper-Banks, director of the Newfane Free Library, said, “I thought this was just a great idea. This is about kids giving to the community in honor of other kids. We work with the schools on various things, and this is a great way for the schools to help the library.
“When they first proposed this idea and asked what I recommended be donated, I said, ‘Kids’ books!’ ” she recalled. “The kids are doing the work, so that’s what should be donated.”
In addition, Littman’s dental practice, Western New York Dental Group, will donate $1 for every book donated (up to $500) to the Jesse Lewis Choose to Love Foundation.
Jesse was one of 20 first-graders who was killed Dec. 14 of last year when a sole gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School, also killing six adults. Jesse was reported to have urged his classmates to run and is credited with saving some of their lives, while he lost his own.
“What can we take away from this?,” asked Littman, who will be one of the gazebo speakers.
“We can learn to stand up and be courageous and brave. We wanted to do something to mark the anniversary of Sandy Hook. We hope to get as many people from the community as we can to attend. Before Jesse left for school that day, he wrote “I Love You” to his mom in the frost on her car window. We should all take the time to tell our family members, ‘I love you.’ ”