Snowflakes for Sandy Hook participants aim to spread winter cheer

When the Stoneleigh Elementary and Oakleigh Elementary communities organized "Snowflakes for Sandy Hook" to decorate the schoolhouse where their peers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. resumed classes this week, they did so with a sense of compassion and desire to brighten those students' days.

But after the Newtown community, where a gunman last month shot his way into Sandy Hook and killed twenty elementary school students and six teachers, requested that the outpouring of gifts from around the country cease, the Towson and Parkville communities were more than happy to stand with Newtown in other ways.

"We thought, 'We'll find a home for the snowflakes, we're still going to do it,' " Aimee Freeman, a member of the Stoneleigh PTA, said.

Over 50 students and parents from across the county turned out Friday evening at Oakleigh Elementary in Parkville, most in their Purple Friday attire with scissors in hand, ready to show solidarity with the shaken community a few hundred miles north.

"I really, really feel a lot of sympathy for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and I want this to be remembered — I don't want this to go unrecognized by everybody," June Keating, Freeman's 11-year-old daughter, said.

Keating was one of the event's more prolific crafters, eagerly learning new snowflake techniques from Stoneleigh Principal Christine Warner and other children's parents. Though her snowflakes won't be shipped north, she was glad to know they'd spread cheer in her own community.

"I think the places that they do go will be inspired by how people are helping each other," she said. "They'll hang them up and everyone will be able to see we're one big community."

Students from Stoneleigh Elementary, Oakleigh Elementary, Villa Cresta Elementary, Carney Elementary, and Harford Hills Elementary attended, among others.

Warner said that on the day of the shooting, many parents called the school to ensure the students would learn about the tragedy at home. As such, she believed a voluntary event that allowed an outlet for families who wished to participate was a fitting outlet for the community's sympathy.

"I think it was wise of the two PTAs to put it out there as a means of expression, and a sense of community," she said.

Freeman and Scott Kilpatrick, president of the Oakleigh Elementary PTA, are both members of the county PTA board, and set the wheels in motion for the event over Christmas break.

Kilpatrick said his school's principal, Sylvia Lemons, was more than happy to offer the building up for use.

Instead of being delivered to Newtown, Freeman said a website was set up with a Google map, where pictures could be sent in and the Newtown community could see where the snowflakes meant for them were hanging.

Naturally, some snowflakes will adorn the walls at Stoneleigh and Oakleigh. Oakleigh students and staff had already hung dozens from the ceiling to welcome the young crafters Friday evening.

Additionally, Freeman said she had been in contact with Kennedy Krieger about delivering some of the snowflakes to be displayed at its facilities.

Otherwise, the spoils of Friday's efforts were waiting to deliver the winter cheer the Newton community hoped could be spread around the country.

"If you have an organization you believe would benefit from some cheering up, we want to spread the love," Stoneleigh PTA President Colleen Mahoney said.

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