When Sandy Hook Elementary School students return to class in January, their new school will be decorated with what could turn out to be thousands upon thousands of homemade snowflakes.
The Sandy Hook Parent-Teacher Association and Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association sent out the call last week asking other PTAs to help create a “winter wonderland” to welcome the students to the unfamiliar environment of their new school in a neighboring town.
It’s been two weeks since a gunman entered their school and killed 20 first-grade students and six adult school employees.
Torie Utterback, a North Canton mother of two, received an email about the project and felt compelled to act.
“The email caught my attention. I love snowflakes, my friends will tell you,” she said.
And her friends showed up. Through Facebook and email, Utterback said, 22 families agreed to attend a snowflake-making marathon in the cafe room at Elite Sports, a business owned by Utterback’s sister, Laurie Thewes. Other families are making them at home and sending them to her.
With the help of girlfriends, Utterback set out several tables of materials, including snowflake cookie cutters, paper plates, glitter, markers, beads, coffee filters and pattern books. Hot cocoa, Goldfish crackers and popcorn were well stocked, too.
While she can’t explain the unexplainable to her children, Utterback said, this display of support was a good way for them to show solidarity and feel empathy.
Discussing the events of that awful day was not something she had on Thursday’s agenda.
“We have some preschoolers here that have the luxury of not knowing why we are doing this,” she said, adding, “I felt strongly that it was up to each individual family (to explain.)”
Her first-grader, Addy, had lots of questions, Utterback said, and they discussed the tragedy as a family.
She explained the snowflake project to Addy by asking her, if something bad were to happen, “wouldn’t it be nice if people you don’t know tried to make it better?”
Kim Rimmele, a teacher at Portage Collaborative Montessori School, brought her daughter, Tylar, a Greentown Intermediate School fifth-grader.
Rimmele said getting the Sandy Hook students in the door the first day will be an important step in their lives.
“Every corner they turn will be something they need to overcome, a hill to climb,” she said.
Tylar, 10, knew the purpose of the day and was hoping to make a difference.
“I hope the snowflakes make the kids feel happy that they have a new school and they can forget about the bad,” Tylar said.