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Sandy Hook students will find blizzard of welcome

Volunteers on Friday sort through paper snowflakes delivered to the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association for Sandy Hook Elementary students.
Volunteers on Friday sort through paper snowflakes delivered to the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association for Sandy Hook Elementary students.
Matthew Sturdevant Hartford Courant

HAMDEN, Conn. – Snowflakes made of coiled copy paper, Post-it notes and even Swarovski Crystal pile into a business-park office like an indoor blizzard.

They arrive by mail in envelopes and boxes. Some are dropped off by hand, others hauled in by UPS and FedEx workers.

“This is bigger than Santa Claus. The volume, it’s just insane,” said Joel Krivit, property manager at Wilbur Cross Commons Business Park, as he watched people carry armloads of Frisbee-size snowflakes into an already crowded space.

Their destination: the office of the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association, a nonprofit organization that comprises more than 260 parent-teacher groups in communities across the state. On Dec. 16, two days after the Newtown shooting left 20 children and six adults dead, group leaders met with three members of Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School to discuss what to do to help the surviving students.

The answer: Snowflakes for Sandy Hook.

Sandy Hook school remains closed. Students will return to classes next week but at a new venue, Chalk Hill Middle School in neighboring Monroe. The PTSA wants to decorate the halls and classrooms of Chalk Hill, making it a “winter wonderland” to welcome the students.

So they sent out a request via media and on the group’s website, asking for snowflakes. People replied, in a big way. A flurry of letters quickly became a deluge – from places like Haltom City, Texas, and Metairie, La.

“Words cannot begin to express how deeply sorry I am that you are going through this tragic time,” one note said.

A kindergarten teacher from San Diego wrote to say that her entire class made snowflakes for Sandy Hook students. Most, in fact, are from students in schools across the country and beyond.

Michael Baldarelli, a 2011 graduate of North Haven (Conn.) High School, read from a list of return addresses as another volunteer put pins in a U.S. map and a world map to indicate the sender’s home.

England, Hong Kong, Germany, most of the United States, including Alaska, have all sent their regards. The PTSA even received some from U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, Baldarelli said.

Asking for handmade snowflakes offered a cathartic exercise for people who want to express grief and share sympathy, said Jim Accomando of Fairfield, president of the Connecticut PTSA.

“Each snowflake represents the emotional outreach of the person making it,” Accomando said.

Nearly 20 volunteers helped the PTSA’s staff open the envelopes, sort them, document the places from which they were sent, and prepare them to be trucked to Chalk Hill. The deadline to send snowflakes is Jan. 12, but the PTSA is already nearly buried in what has arrived so far.

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