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Sandy Hook Promise Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Health, Mental Health

Mission: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. SHP’s mission is to prevent gun violence (and other forms of violence and victimization) BEFORE it can happen by educating and mobilizing youth and adults to identify, intervene, and get help for at-risk individuals. SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human side” of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others. Our words, actions, and impact nationwide are intended to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. For more information, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org or call 203-304-9780.

Target demographics: Children, youth, and families.

Geographic areas served: in all 50 states.

Programs: Our Know the Signs Programs: Say Something and Start With Hello.

Community Stories

47 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The work Sandy Hook Promise does is designed to create a safer and kinder world. Inspired to continue the legacy of the 26 innocent children and brave adults taken senselessly by gun violence, SHP provides evidence based strategies to combat future tragedies. Programs such as, “Starts with Hello” offer alternatives to children feeling isolated or potentially alienating others. The compassion of the founders, staff and volunteers is phenomenal. I’m proud to be a Promise Leader and to support a cause I deeply believe in. Gun violence is preventable! SHP is working tirelessly to save lives.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sandy Hook Promise puts students first. I worked with SHP to promote the "Say Something Anonymous Reporting System" to middle and high school students. The program teaches young people how to look for warning signs, act immediately and say something to a trusted adult. Students are empowered to create an inclusive school community in which they recognize when a peer needs help. The anonymous reporting system harnesses technology that students are comfortable with to report concerning behavior which can be addressed by licensed mental health professionals and school administrators. SHP is building a better future by educating today's youth.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Everyone is caring and loving and wants to make a difference that truly matters. I have loved the volunteer coordinator, Judith Coffey. I feel in good hands with her and others I have spoke with at SHP.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a teacher, I have seen first hand the difference SHP has made in children’s lives. The Say Hello initiative has educated students to realize the importance of including those who may be on the fringe of any group, without a sense of belonging.
It is a critical factor to make sure every child does not feel isolated with no real connections to their school.

Donor

Rating: 5

My daughter was in first-grade (in Texas) when the first-graders were murdered at Sandy Hook. I remember hearing the news and wanting to help and show support, which led me to supporting this organization since it's beginning. The leaders truly care and believe in their mission and want to turn tragedy into good. They have done so much work and created great programs used in schools (and I have incorporated those programs into my Girl Scout meetings). Such a worthy cause doing something that matters: helping kids learn values as well as working toward insensible gun restrictions. Proud to be a long-time supporter!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a long-time teacher substitute and a grandparent several times over. As a relatively new Sandy Hook Promise Leader volunteer I’d like to share what compelled me to step up.

Like most, the steady onslaught of school shootings has impacted me deeply, Sandy Hook especially. Seeing those sweet faces took me to the darkest of places— I had grandchildren their age and could not imagine the pain, the loss. I knew then I had to do what I could.

Sandy Hook touched us all—unbelievably painful, shocking, sobering. And frustrating. Incredibly, it’s a predictable cycle with school shootings. We are collectively outraged. We send our thoughts and prayers. Impassioned speeches and sermons and cries to act ring out across the country. Then somehow each tragedy quietly fades into the rear-view. The news cycle moves on, nothing lasting happens. While the frequency of school shootings has diminished, if anything gun control measures have been relaxed, while social-emotional pressures are increasing. That is what really drove me to act. We cannot allow ourselves to go numb and I fear that we are doing just that. Surely we’re not thinking “leave well enough alone”? We cannot wait for the next tragedy to react. We must prevent!

My long-term passions revolve around kids and their future. Bullying, social pressures, self-harm, apathy, stress, fear…they deserve better. I needed a way to nudge the needle toward action, to impact our reality, to make a difference. The first step is awareness: if enough people know and understand, some will care enough to get involved. But even with the powerful reach of social media, I couldn’t make a real difference. A movement requires critical mass, strong grass roots. I was alone.

When I found the Sandy Hook Promise website, I quickly saw that their mission and objectives aligned perfectly with my top personal drivers. The organization has credibility and name recognition. They support their volunteer advocates with personal connections and a wealth of material. And it was so easy to get started with Sandy Hook Promise.

We each have something to contribute, given the means. If a person really wants to make a difference in our children’s welfare and safety Sandy Hook Promise provides the opportunity. I will make a difference and I am looking for others who feel the same way.

We need numbers, we need strength. We need more committed people, more supporters, more exposure, more organizational partners, more direct influence with decision-makers. We must grow! Together, the SHP mission and objectives will become reality, for our children. For my grandchildren.

“Sandy Hook Promise envisions a country where no child experiences the devastation of school shootings...to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence and other harmful acts in schools. We believe we can accomplish this by uniting people of all beliefs and backgrounds to take meaningful action in their homes and communities to protect children.
Our mission is to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence and other harmful acts that hurt children."

Paul S.7

Donor

Rating: 5

The enormity of gun violence and it's range of insane outcomes is horrendous. The loving kindness with which the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation addresses the inequities of a thoughtless and inhuman obsession requires and deserves loving and kind support.

Donor

Rating: 5

I graduated from Newtown High School in the 1970's. When the tragedy struck at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I rushed back to Newtown to visit my Mom and her friends, some of whom had grandchildren that went to the elementary school.
I cannot say enough about the wonderful parents who began Sandy Hook Promise. They had lost their beloved children yet still formed this organization so that no one would ever experience a similar tragedy. Their programs such as Know the Signs (which educates about how to spot a troubled kid) and other Community trainings have literally saved lives throughout the nation and beyond. Their important and consistent advocacy work about ending gun violence and increasing proper gun control measures has made an impact upon legislators everywhere!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I wish there were more non-profit organizations like Sandy Hook Promise. Sandy Hook Promise is a non-profit that is based in Newtown, Connecticut, and has members involved all across the U.S. The organization is made of incredible and amazing family members who lost loved ones in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. I personally remember that day very well. I was sitting in my 12th-grade economics class hearing about the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

In my career as an education professional, I have experienced real active shooter threats and lockdown drills, so I understand how critical it is to educate children to prevent future tragedies before it occurs. Sandy Hook Promise does an excellent job addressing students' social-emotional needs with their actions and programs like their Start with Hello program. Also, Sandy Hook Promise has excellent resources for children, educators, administrators, and parents. I really liked their back-to-school educator kit because I work with a 12-year-old boy with autism and I used some of the Start with Hello questions by making a fun game out of it. The boy really enjoyed playing and answering the questions.

I began volunteering with Sandy Hook Promise this year as a Promise Leader (February 2021). The staff is very friendly, nice, supportive, and encouraged me to support and give back to this non-profit in more ways than I could imagine. I love working with Sandy Hook Promise because its top mission is to protect children and prevent gun violence. Sandy Hook Promise will always be a special non-profit because it hits close to home for me especially after losing a loved one to gun violence in 2018. I will forever be a lifetime volunteer and donor to Sandy Hook Promise. I highly recommend supporting Sandy Hook Promise. If you or anyone is interested in volunteering or donating please visit https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sandy Hook Promise has been a phenomenal organization to be a volunteer for. I consider myself still new to the group as I started volunteering a little over six months ago. That being said, t community that makes up Sandy Hook Promise is incredibly welcoming. Everybody I have worked with has been so kind and appreciative of the work their volunteers are doing. Everybody part of Sandy Hook Promise has their own story which is what creates a strong bond among its members. Sandy Hook Promise is also very understanding of its volunteers. I also appreciate how involved Sandy Hook Promise is with children. Sandy Hook Promise has multiple clubs kids and teachers can start in their schools. I believe that involving kids is key to ending gun violence in schools. I can’t say enough good things about Sandy Hook Promise and look forward to volunteering opportunities in the future.

1 Wendy St P.

Donor

Rating: 5

I don’t have any experience with this non profit other than the fact that I contributed money and I felt I would like to help. I haven’t really been asked to volunteer yet.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This foundation should be every schools best friend! It is a best friend in the sense that it focuses on methods to teach inclusion, standard school safety protocols for children to follow when they need to share sensitive information and training for students to know the signs of someone in distress. I have personally been a volunteer for this organization for the last 5 years and it is the most fulfilling volunteer work I could have chosen. The organization has everything planned out for a school teacher/administrator to get the information instantly via their website and start implementing programs the same day!

1 karenflam

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Gun violence is on the rise in our schools, places of worship and on our streets.
SHP is so important to ad

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Our district has been involved with SHP for several years now and it has had a huge impact on our school community. The activities and trainings for our students are so valuable. Our parents in the district have formed a small group to support any initiatives through SHP and our school community. We are stronger as a school community because of their involvement.

1 Marc J. F.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Unfortunately, societal, state legislative and congressional attention is not what it should be when it comes to gun violence. In a year of record-breaking violence that also impacts officers at a significate rate, some states are making it too easy to obtain a weapon, pre-cluding any semblance of an investigation.

One would've thought by now that since events like Sandy Hook, our 'pro-life,' righteous nation on a hill would've adequately addressed gun violence.

We can, we have and we must. Organizations like Sandy Hook Promise help ensure that at least some attention stays where it's needed.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5


Sandy Hook took place in 2012 and my heart felt broken for many years after that horrible experience.
After my brothers were both shot to death and both died next to one another I knew i would never ever be the same again. Shortly after I went to work for The Dougy Center for Grieving Children working with violent death experiences.
This organization continuous their work tirelessly and without expectations of big donations and hard work.

Ruben

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Losing a loved one to gun violence impacted my life significantly but getting to work with the wonderful people of Sandy Hook Promise who have dedicated thier lives to protecting the lives of others particularly children has helped tremendously. Knowing I am working to help others not experience what I had to endure as a 9 year old girl. As a mother of 4 it is incredibly important to protect vulnerable children and I'm thankful for all the work Sandyhook does for communities across America.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 4

The people are so nice and helpful! The mission to the SHP is amazing and I am glad to be part of it

3 Sara K.5

Volunteer

Rating: 4

The Sandy Hook Promise Organization has helped our Central Ohio Community become more aware of mental health and violence issues affecting our students in all walks of life. As a volunteer for the past 5 years, I have seen parents, students, teachers, administrators, community leaders, bus drivers, police officers, medical community members and policy makers all recognize that we can truly help our children be safe by empowering them to inspire inclusivity, watch for signs of struggle in others, and Say Something to bring help. Their message is easy to share and provides a positive method to address one of the difficult topics we deal with in our world.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a huge fan of this organization. I got really involved after I met with some of the founders, who have heartbreaking stories, as you can imagine, but also incredible resilience and drive to change the way this country handles guns and associated laws (or lack thereof). However, they do it from a grassroots, social-change strategy rather than legislative. And that is where people like myself have been able to fit in. They offer ways for volunteers to go into schools and teach the kids about preventing gun violence before it happens. The programs I've been lucky enough to work with are Start With Hello, which is all about inclusivity and looking out for one another, and Say Something, which is about being aware of trouble and violence in peers and seeking out a trusted adult to confide in, before a tragedy occurs. Because of these programs, they have prevented mass shootings and suicides and have truly made a difference in so many lives. This organization deserves to be at the top of the list for non-profits making a difference!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a senior in high school who recently served on the Youth Advisory Board at Sandy Hook Promise. Going into the position, I was relatively new to the actual implementation of programs in schools. I had only been running a SAVE Promise Club for about half a school year and had only heard of the organization previously through my mother. During my time on the board, I met countless amazing people. Between the students who worked alongside me, the adults who guided us, and the eventual recipients of SHP programs, there was not an instance where I was not learning and growing. I went on a journey to teach others, but found myself to be the ultimate student of SHP and its supporters.

1 De A.

Donor

Rating: 5

As a Connecticut resident, Sandy Hook Promise is an organization that is close to my heart. I am so proud to have a national organization in my state that delivers violence prevention programs to youth and educators across the country. It is an honor to support an organization with such an extraordinary mission and vision. Sandy Hook Promise helps youth and adults reduce social isolation, builds inclusive communities, develops programs to prevent suicide, and encourages youth to say something to trusted adults when warning signs and threats are encountered. Impressively, Sandy Hook Promise is also cultivating generations of youth leaders and social justice advocates through its 3,000 SAVE Promise Clubs nationwide. Although this nonprofit arose out of a horrible tragedy, I am in awe of what it has achieved to date and look forward to future programs that confront the new challenges we are facing.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a Promise Leader with this amazing organization. I have long advocated for reasonable gun legislation. What attracted me to Sandy Hook promise is their deep commitment and understanding that gun violence is a multi faceted problem. They not only lobby for reasonable legislation, but also tackle core societal issues that lead to gun violence. This organization addresses mental health issues, youth alienation and bullying, and encourages young people to speak up. There is evidence that these programs have prevented school shootings. They have advanced common sense gun legislation in the House of Representatives. If you are looking for a program that really makes a difference, look no further than Sandy Hook Promise.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sandy Hook Promise works around the clock to protect our children. They have provided free education and programs to SO MANY schools and children - and the programs are working to prevent gun violence! They are well run, organized, and effective.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I decided to volunteer for an organization that took action to prevent gun violence, I researched various organizations. I became a Promise Leader with Sandy Hook Promise because their violence prevention programs are researched- based and have been instrumental in preventing multiple school shootings, suicides and other forms of violence and victimization throughout the country. Their legislative advocacy is strong in advocating for sensible gun laws. It is rewarding to be part of an organization whose members are actively working to prevent violence.

Previous Stories
2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I wanted to honor the lives taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School and so I became a Promise Leader. I believe the programs offered by Sandy Hook Promise are so valuable. The foundation for reducing violence of any kind is when people feel connected and they look out for one another. The researched based, no cost programs that the organization offers will change the culture and climate of schools and other youth organizations. These positive changes will affect communities.

Comments ( 1 )

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alexaaact 07/23/2019

Thank you so much!

1 Kim L.8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with Sandy Hook Promise for several years and have been extremely impressed with the focused, efficient, and most importantly - EFFECTIVE - operations of this organization. The education, engagement outreach, and support they offer their volunteers is top notch, along with their gun violence prevention/reduction initiatives and programs. The importance of the work they are doing and the excellence with which they execute it can't be overstated, in my opinion.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Because of the senselessness of the tragedy and the coordinated response to help prevent future gun violence, I have been impressed and involved with Sandy Hook Promise. Sandy Hook Promise works with schools to reduce the likelihood of another tragedy through programs such as Know The Signs, Start With Hello, and Say Something.The organization provides a variety of tool-kits to make implementation within schools turnkey. Thus, for example, when my local middle school was open to SHP programs and students were interested in activating, they had the tools to do so. Importantly, Sandy Hook Promise is not about taking away the Second Amendment but making sure guns are owned by responsible individuals to reduce the likelihood of another tragedy.

2 Melanie B.5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with Sandy Hook Promise for three years and have nothing but respect for how the organization is run. Whenever I have had a question or need a resource, they have delivered. The support I get as a volunteer for Sandy Hook Promise is above and beyond other organizations where I have volunteered. SHP is doing such important work. I am glad I chose to work with them.

3 Julie's D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a Promise Leader with Sandy Hook Promise for 5 years and have enjoyed doing anything I can to help this organization. All the free materials and guidance they offer schools is incredible! Especially since school districts budgets are usually maxed out this is a great assistance to them. I highly reccomend donating to this charity to help our children learn how to know the signs to hopefully prevent a tragedy before it happens. See a short video of high school students participating in one of their programs "Say Something".

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Hi,
I’m a U.S. Army Veteran that seen a little “Gun Violence” during my time in service. I believe in the 2nd Amendment but I also believe in common sense gun laws. My city of El Paso Texas was hit just like many schools or neighborhoods around our country. As months gone by and non action from our fellow Senate Majority McConnell it has pushed me to be part of the solution. My dream of a peaceful country is all I want for us all. We must try to come together so that we may become part of the solution. We must rise against hate towards one another. We must rise against all violence. We must love our neighbor as it says in scripture for those of faith. My advice to all that has lost some one, A young WestPoint Lieutenant commanding our Platoon once told me after loosing a Friend in combat “The way to Honor our Fallen is to continue to carry out our Duty.” Wake up thank God love your parents siblings. Graduate go to college live life...That is the way to Honor those who have fallen either by School Shootings Gang Violence Mass Shootings or on the battlefield! To all the Youth! You will make mistakes but learn from them love one another and continue to fight for a Brighter future. Hope this helps!

8

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

This organization has you all fooled. As a former staff member I can tell you that the money is not going where you expect it to. Leadership are focused on themselves and do not know how to run a business. None of them have been in such a position before and they do not seek or listen to advice.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

It's heartbreaking! I am proud your keeping this out there in media. People who never experienced this cannot imagine what it's like and that's okay we are just fortunate for the time being. Your strength and advocating to help save others is awesome! You got guts to face the process it takes to create change. I admire you for it. Thank you.

10

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I think that this particular site is a scam. I believe in preventing gun violence. However, I sometimes multiple Emails in a day asking for money. I have lost count of the number of the number of times that I have clicked on Unsubscribe, only to continue to get Emails asking for money. I have even tried contacting Sandy Hook on Facebook and by sending Emails. Nothing works. If they are not even telling the truth about being able to Unsubscribe, then I doubt that they are telling the truth about anything, especially where the money is going. I would avoid donating to this site.

5

Donor

Rating: 5

Sandy Hook promise is a wonderful, and sadly necessary program. As a mom, the Sandy Hook shooting hit me hard, broke my heart, and shook me to my core. It made my sons cry & fear they might die at school. I tried to comfort them saying they will be safe. My younger son looked at me, with his big terrified, teary eyes and said “you don’t know that mommy, you can’t promise it, nowhere is safe anymore,” he was absolutely right.

5 Bonnie Mac Laughlin C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have followed this foundation since that horrific day in 2014 when children died in school. As a former teacher, I always wanted my classroom to be a safe place for all those to enter. Sadly, times have changed and that is no longer true.

On one of my many trips back to Cape Cod, I took the exit off 84 for Sandy Hook. Something told me that I needed to visit the site and pay my respects, as a teacher and fellow human being. I approached the entrance to the long road to the new school and saw a very small sign with the school name on it. Usually these signs are quite large but in this day and age, towns do not want to advertise the whereabouts of a school. As I turned into the entrance road to the school, I came upon barricades across the road which impeded by progress and needed prior identification to open. I stopped the car and sat and just cried for what seemed like a long time. To be barricaded from visiting an elementary school has become our new normal and it saddens my heart. No longer a safe haven of learning, we need barricades and bars to be safe while young children learn. This is not the way I want children of American to live
their young lives and it behooves all of us to stand tall and say, "No more".....

So I follow Sandy Hook Promise Foundation and cheer them on as they go forward for the good of all children......let's all join them in their quest for safety and security for our children.....

4

Donor

Rating: 5

I have always appreciated the work of the foundation but it really hit home when my cousins high school, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas was yet another tragic statistic.
This increasing trend in our country must stop and I feel confident that the work of this organization with be at the forefront. I am a proud donor and will continue to do what I can to raise awareness.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Incredible organization doing all in their power to change the world for the better.

5

Advisor

Rating: 5

I became a SAVE Sandy Hook Promise leader 10 years ago. When Sandy Hook Promise was created, many activities were also created to help teach students to know the signs to say something. The people at Sandy Hook Promise are very passionate about their mission. They are doing amazing work!

Comments ( 1 )

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alexaaact 07/25/2019

Thank you so much for all of your work with us!

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a Sandy Hook Promise leader for almost 3 years. I have been in elementary and middle school classrooms throughout my school district and in neighboring districts . The programs are wonderful and have, more importantly , saved lives . Kids are listening and are talking because of what we teach them. And that is a big step in the right direction . I am honored to use my time by volunteering.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a mother, I felt the need to be involved in an organization that I felt connected to. Sandy Hook Promise was this organization for me. You have Promise Leaders that reach out and connect with you. Very easy to talk to someone to learn about the different ways you can be involved. I am a new Promise Leader and I’m enjoying making a connection with the community. I am passionate about the Start With Hello Program and can relate to it since my daughter is Elementary School. I know as my daughter grows up I will continue to Say Something Program and continue my growth in the organization.

5 Lynn T.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There’s a place for anyone and everyone within the broad scope of the Sandy Hook Promise mission. Some have dedicated their life’s purpose, some present, some teach what they learn, some organize events, some advocate change in statute, policy and practice, some promote, some show up when tragedy strikes but all agree on one common purpose...for the violence to end.

Comments ( 1 )

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alexaaact 06/28/2019

Lynn, this is so kind! Thank you for being a part of our work.

6 Douglas M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation is one of the most effective and efficient charities I have ever come across. $1 raised educates 1 child (or educator) to recognize signs of violence BEFORE it happens - so action can be taken to save lives. It was an honor to be part of the the Sandy Hook Promise 2016 TCSNYCMARATHON team to raise money for this cause. I give as freely of my time as I can to educate everyone I can that gun violence is preventable. #RunForSomething #ProtectOurKids #SafeStorageSavesLives

6 Susan307

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My oldest grandson was in kindergarten when the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened. As for so many, the sadness losing so many to guns was excruciating. Sandy Hook Promise has given me hope... If those parents can turn their grief to action to keep others from suffering so much, certainly I can as well. I've become a volunteer Sandy Hook Promise and have helped in a variety of ways over the past years. Just yesterday I went with their team to testify at the MA State House on behalf of a bill that will make Massachusetts school and communities so much safer. I had the honor of meeting with several staff of SHP, truly lovely committed people.

Comments ( 1 )

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alexaaact 06/28/2019

So glad you could join us Susan, thank you for your advocacy and compassion!

6 Carrie Hutton B.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Sandy Hook Promise Foundation has provided incredible prevention programs as well as intense support to our school district and local SAVE Promise Clubs. As a school based mental health professional I see the need daily for these programs and can attest to the passion and real care and attention SHP provides in helping schools implement their FREE, evidence based programs. I SO appreciate all of the work SHP is doing to keep our kids and communities safe. Thank you!! xo Carrie Brown

Comments ( 1 )

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alexaaact 06/28/2019

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Carrie! We appreciate you and all you do so much!

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Sandy Hook Promise keeps their promises. Their programs and policy initiatives address the root causes of gun violence and work to prevent tragedies before they happen. What's more, they're creating a kinder learning environment for America's students.

13

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

“I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to kill you.” Tom yelled at me while pointing the pistol at me. I slowly rose up from the couch, frantically yelled “put the gun down, you can hurt someone” and made my way to the bathroom nearby. Locked inside with the towels and scented soaps, I noticed the telephone on the counter. This was the 80s, and a phone in the bathroom was an uncommon sight. Without that phone to call my dad, and the parents of the boy I was babysitting – I could have become one of accidental shooting statistics now reported weekly across the United States.

Thirty-plus years later, I am the mother of two school aged children. Like many, I reached new levels of despair open learning that 28 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT. The shooter, Adam Lanza committed matricide, followed by murdering twenty children ages 7 and younger, six school staff members, and then committed suicide.

In the three years following Sandy Hook, I got involved in the cause to reduce gun violence. To me, this meant being vocal about my stance on gun law reform. I donated to the advocacy group founded by Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, following her survival of an Arizona Mass Shooting. I posted my views on Facebook, I spoke with friends and family. I thought I was doing enough.

On October 1, 2015 – a shooter at Umpqua Community College stormed the campus killing nine and committing suicide in the process. This time upon hearing the news, something changed. I questioned what good I was doing. I doubted how throwing money at advocacy groups, and voicing my opinion on Facebook was making a difference. But what had really changed was….I wasn’t horrified. In fact, I felt numb. I became fearful of desensitization. Was I indifferent? In an attempt to rally myself back to a place of being shocked – I watched a documentary produced by Nightline regarding the NRA’s rise to power. I’d hoped I would recharge my resolve, and generate new ideas on how to “solve our gun violence” problem.

But instead, I sat broken. Defeated.

It’s no use. The NRA has won. Americans, we love our guns. We can’t win. It’s over.

Head in hands, I cried and quit the fight.

The next morning, as a brand new day often does, I found myself staring at an opportunity. With Facebook’s Suggested Page fairies sprinkling their pixie dust on my screen – a beautiful green tree – with leaves made of handprints caught my eye. I spent the next several hours educating myself on the Sandy Hook Promise (www.sandyhookpromise.org), and rediscovered my soul.

Sandy Hook Promise spoke to me, in a way that other efforts hadn’t been able to. It provided a vehicle for volunteering my time, not just my money and social network. I could get directly involved in my community.

I loved how Sandy Hook Promise’s programs were heavily weighted on prevention – not waging war on gun lobbies or alienating responsible gun owners.

I loved that the focus was on mental health first aid programs. That the definition of gun violence was inclusive of suicide prevention & unintentional shootings. That the programs are predominately youth led. Volunteering and spending time with kids – teaching them how to be inclusive of other kids, how to recognize mental crisis in their friends and classmates, how to #saysomething to a trusted adult when they have witnessed a potential sign, signal or threat of gun violence. This spoke to me. That tattling and looking out for your friends and classmates are different. That we need to have a plan for kids, which they can easily follow, should they encounter a firearm unexpectedly. That we open the dialogue with youth on these issues, not brush the tough talks under the rug.

I loved that Sandy Hook Promise’s legislative philosophy is based on upholding the rights of gun owners, while advocating for gun safety, gun lethality (magazine size) and that reducing gun violence is not solely about the gun – that Mental Health advocacy, education and programs are key components.

I signed on as a Promise Leader. A Promise Leader makes the commitment to be an active participate in their community, to bring the Sandy Hook Promise programs to schools, youth centers, places of worship, and any other community organization where we can educate the public on Mental Health First Aid, and other prevention programs like #saysomething, #startwithhello #Keepitsecureandsafelystored (Kiss). That as a Promise Leader, I will educate other adults on the programs and how to get involved.

Before I donated financially, I decided it was time to donate that most valuable of all resources – time. I created a plan for how I was going to get involved with Sandy Hook Promise within my community, starting with the local middle and elementary schools my children attend.

Sitting in my son’s middle school principal’s office, I was fearful that he would view me as “an overly involved, helicopter parent”. I presented my reasons for signing on as a Promise Leader and that I wanted to get our middle school, and other schools involved with Sandy Hook Promise Programs. That I felt our public school systems were already strapped, and thin on time and resources, and that I wanted to be “the heavy lifter” to help get Sandy Hook Promise off the ground running for them.

As I sat looking at my son’s principal, nervous about what he would say, he began slowly, “Penny, this cause is one that is near and dear to my heart. We are all very concerned that something like this could happen here, in fact, our demographic is not necessarily an if it’s going to happen in some ways it’s a when. Our school already had one lock-down due to a man in a nearby neighborhood brandishing a shotgun as he walked through the streets, so I really want to support this, and in fact have some ideas on how you can get started.”

The look on his face, of surprise and gratitude that a parent would want to help them in this way – answered any doubts. It felt good to show them how much I value all their hard work in caring for our community’s kids.

He gave me unlimited access to the staff, suggested a small taskforce of teachers and administrators, communicated with them that this was something they were to get involved in. He asked me to get involved with the student led News Network and the elected student body and council. He wanted the programs to be student led – which provided me a huge sigh of relief, wondering how I was going to pull this all off with a full time job, a family to raise, and a 90-lb German shepherd nipping at my feet.

We are now in full swing preparing for our first “Say Something” week. A week of inclusion and education events which will dovetail with other positive behavior programs that our county has rolled out to districts county-wide.

Despite all this “doing” and “action” and “communicating” – the biggest gift I’ve received from volunteering for Sandy Hook Promise- is the return of hope.

That a group of families, who experienced devastating loss, could redirect their grief, for the greater good and provide an unwavering example of forgiveness – I am deeply humbled and grateful for each and every one of them.

I owe Sandy Hook Promise so much in return.




Review from #MyGivingStory