As the events of the Newtown shooting at the Sandy Hook School began to unfold on Dec. 14, Lisa Wrubleski’s thoughts couldn’t help but to turn to her own 6-year-old daughter at Plantsville Elementary School.
It was a common reaction for many parents and guardians as the entire nation attempted to make sense of a tragedy that left 26 dead including 20 young elementary school children. But rather than stand by or simply look to find ways to honor the victims, Wrubleski and her friend Erin Furniss are looking to turn a tragedy into something positive.
And ‘Because of 26’ was born.
“It started with my daughter’s Daisy Troop,” Wrubleski said. “The leader talk about how they wanted to do something in honor of the Sandy Hook victims, but with Daisy’s, they are 6 and 7-years-old so it was a touchy subject.”
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“One idea was planting butterfly bushes along trail, one for each of victims,” she said. “I knew it was a crazy idea but I loved the idea. In the middle of the night it would keep me awake and I wanted to see if we could make it happen.”
Wrubleski and Furniss never imagined the group would gain the momentum it has and become the project it’s turned into today.
The all-volunteer organization currently has plans to enhance the town’s linear trails, honor the victim’s of the Sandy Hook tragedy and promote random acts of kindness throughout the community that will enhance the lives of residents and visitors every day, even if just through a quick smile and unexpected hello.
“What if we could make their immediate world and town we live in a kinder, gentler and more friendly? Would it not be something we should do?” Furniss told the Southington Board of Education earlier this year.
On June 15 – just one day after the six-month anniversary of the shooting – the organization will plant 26 Butterfly bushes along the town’s linear trail – one for each of the victims – and will do so with support from throughout the community. A representative of the town’s 12 public schools and two private schools, the Southington Police Department, the Southington Fire Department, EMT services, the Southington YMCA and the United Way of Southington will be on hand to plant each bush.
The group has also reached out to the victims to allow them to plant a bush as well if they are interested. If families do not want to come, the additional bushes to be planted will be given to others later.
Wrubleski said the bushes were selected after talking with staff in the Southington Parks & Recreation Department because they are durable, require limited maintenance and have a meaning that will properly pay tribute to those killed.
“Butterflies represent something nice, they are out in world making it a more beautiful place,” Wrubleski said. “In many religions, there is a belief that the butterfly carries the individuals soul to heaven and hopefully this will send a message that we hope they are in heaven somewhere, in a better place.”
The effort to plant bushes is just the beginning, however – and ‘Because of 21’ needs your help.
Plans are in place to build a mural along the back of the Ragozzino’s Deli building, with 26 artists each painting their own individual butterfly. Spaces are open and artists are wanted, Wrubleski said. In addition, an artist is needed to create a special logo for the group that will be printed on shirts used for the event.
Organizers said the event will also include ice cream cups for kids, an area for kids to plant their own take-home flowers that will serve as a reminder to show kindness to everyone each and every day and the creation of a kiosk and guide to show where each of the 26 plants are along the trail and who they were planted in honor of.
Children will also be given the opportunity to create chalk art and spread words of kindness along the trail.
“So many people have stepped up to the plate. We have been overwhelmed with the support. But there’s still a lot to do and a lot of costs to make up for,” Wrubleski said. “Really this is a way to make something positive, take a good from such a horrible tragedy. We want the families to approve of what is done in (the victim’s) honor.”
The event will begin at 10 a.m. and members of surrounding communities are invited to take part.
For more information including how to volunteer or sign-up as an artist, visit the group’s Facebook page by clicking the link provided. Area residents looking to donate to the cause may do so through Facebook as well or by sending donations to ‘Because of 26’ at P.O. Box 263, Plantsville, CT 06479.
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