Five years after Sandy Hook: families keep the memory of lost children alive

In the years since the mass shooting that killed 20 children and six educators, families have memorialized their loved ones in many different ways

School safety campaigns. An animal sanctuary. A childrens book. Support for mental health reform. A lawsuit against the manufacturer of a military-style rifle.

In the five years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, the families of the 20 children and six educators killed have taken very different paths to honor the lives of their loved ones.

Some family members have chosen to remain intensely private. Others have become prominent advocates for gun violence prevention.

No single campaign represents all 26 families. The continuing lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and dealer of the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting, for example, was brought by the families of only nine Sandy Hook victims and one survivor.

Here, drawn from the joint website for the Sandy Hook victims families, is a brief look at how each family has asked to remember and honor those who died.

Charlotte Helen Bacon, age six

Charlotte
Charlotte Helen Bacon.

Smart, funny, curious, messy, in-intimidated, and adventurous, her family wrote, describing six-year-old Charlotte. We like to use the word BOLD.

A foundation in Charlottes honor supports a therapy dog program, a scholarship for students studying to become veterinarians, and a grant to help couples grieving the death of a child.

Together with an award-winning childrens book author, her parents co-wrote a picture book, Good Dogs, Great Listeners, which tells the story of Charlotte and her dog, Lily. Charlottes brother also wrote a book about his experience with therapy dogs after his sisters death, called The Dogs of Newtown.

Daniel Barden, age seven

Mark
Mark Barden holds up a picture of his son Daniel during a vigil. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Seven-year-old Daniel was unusually compassionate, always concerned that the people around him were happy and safe. He used to sit next to a special needs girl in his class to make sure she was OK, and when she would lose her glasses, Daniel would find them.

The What Would Daniel Do? campaign encourages other people to follow Daniels legacy of kindness. His parents have been outspoken about participating in a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer, focused on the irresponsible militaristic advertising for AR-15-style guns sold to civilians. Mark Barden, his father, is one of the founders of Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit that advocates for mental health reform, certain gun laws, and a violence prevention program that trains students and adults to Know the Signs of someone at-risk of violence.

Olivia Rose Engel, age six

Olivia
Olivia Rose Engel.

Olivia loved swimming and soccer and dancing in a pink tutu, singing and art projects and math. At dinner, she led her family in saying grace, and she was proud of her role as a big sister and her participation in an educational program at her parish church. To honor Olivias zest for life, her family has raised money for Newtown Park & Bark, a group that supports a local off-leash dog park. The organization has a page that honors Olivias joy, with photographs of happy dogs and messages about them. Olivias family also created a web site in her honor.

Josephine Gay, age seven

Josephine
Josephine Gay.

Seven-year-old Josephine, known as Joey, was the girly-est of her sisters, and she adored her older siblings, the family wrote in a recent article in the Newtown Bee. Fun-loving and affectionate, Joey had worked hard to meet the milestones that came so easily to her older sisters, after being diagnosed with autism, global apraxia and apraxia of speech. Her family wrote that she had found love and support in Newtown: Her classmates eagerly learned sign language and encouraged and included her whenever they could.

Her family has raised money for Joeys Fund, which supports families in New England who need resources to help family members with autism. Her mother, Michele Gay, is also one of the founders of Safe and Sound Schools, an organization that promotes improved school security.

Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, age six

Ana
Ana Marquez-Greene.

A budding musician, six-year-old Ana Grace had a gift for melody, pitch and rhythm that stood out even in a musical family, as her father put it. She never walked anywhere – her mode of transportation was dance. She dance from room to room and place to place.

The Ana Grace Project supports arts education and has worked with schools to implement a Love Wins curriculum, which supports a stronger social and emotional environment for students and staff. Recognizing that the counseling resources available to Newtown residents after the shooting are not available to every community dealing with violence, the organization has also worked to bring professional development in counseling and trauma-informed care to other communities that need them.

Her father, prominent Jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, released a tribute album, Beautiful Life, in 2014. Her mother, Nelba Marquez-Greene, writes frequently on social media about grief, activism, and how political developments affect survivors of violence.

Dylan Hockley, age six

A photograph of British-born Dylan in a Superman t-shirt has become one of the icons of the fight to pass tougher gun laws in America. Dylan, his family wrote, adored chocolate and cuddling and bouncing on trampolines. He was sensitive to loud noises and loved routine. He wanted to play with other kids so much, they wrote, even though he didnt always know how.

The Dylans Wings of Change Foundation benefits children with autism and other special needs. His mother, Nicole Hockley, is one of the founders and managing directors of Sandy Hook Promise. His parents have been outspoken about their participation in a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and dealer of the military-style weapon used in the Sandy Hook shooting.

Madeleine F Hsu, age six

Her family described Madeleine as a a petite princess with a big personality, always ready to jump into surf at the beach, plunge into the pool, or ride her bike without training wheels as soon as they had been taken off.

Once you set your mind to do something, her family wrote of her, it was as good as done.

Catherine Violet Hubbard, age six

Catherine
Catherine Hubbard.

Catherine, with her red hair and freckles, loved animals so much she made her own business cards for Catherines Animal Shelter, her family wrote. Her title: Care Taker. Tell your friends I am kind, she would whisper to animals when she played with them.

Catherines family is building an animal sanctuary in her honor on 34 acres of Connecticut farmland. The sanctuary already hosts events, and individuals and groups can donate to support the sanctuary or volunteer their time for instance, building garden beds or clearing out invasive plants.

Chase Kowalski, age seven

Chase had already been an enthusiastic athlete and competitor for years. He began running competitively at age two, his family wrote. At age 6, Chase asked to be entered into his first triathlon in his first ever competition, he took on the field and won his age group!

The CMAK Foundation supports programs for physical and emotional well-being for kids and their families, including Race4Chase, a kids triathlon program.

break the cycle

Jesse Lewis, age six

The quintessential image of Jesse, his family wrote, is him in boots with no socks, ripped jeans, an army helmet on his head, and dirt smudged on his cheek as he marched through a field from one adventure to another.

When he and his classmates were targeted on December 14, his family wrote, Jesse used his last few minutes on earth yelling to his friends to run, saving many lives.

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement supports a social and emotional learning program for teachers and students. Jesses mother Scarlett Lewis has spoken publicly about the importance of this kind of learning in childrens lives as well as the importance of forgiveness.

James Radley Mattioli, age six

James was all boy, his family wrote, always wrestling with his father, jumping off tall objects, and moving through the world with boundless energy. He loved his sister and learning from her. He had also developed a keen interest in math.

His family asked that donations to support the programs that brought him joy should be sent to: The James R Mattioli Memorial Fund C/O Newtown Savings Bank; 39 Main Street Newtown, CT 06470.

Grace McDonnell, age seven

Grace had been taking art classes since she was three years old, and showed early talent. She saw beauty in everything and was fortunate to have found her passion early in life, her family wrote.

Through the Grace McDonnell Memorial Fund, her family wrote, they hoped to support young artists and youth art programs.

A
A memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Photograph: Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Emilie Parker, age six

Emilie loved visiting the craft store, and her family constantly found beads, bits of paper, colored cotton balls or anything else Emilie thought she could use to create art all over the house. Her family shared a photograph of her next to a canvas with a palette of paints, wearing an enormous t-shirt as an artists smock.

The Emilie Parker Art Connection supports art programs. Alissa Parker, her mother, has written a book, An Unseen Angel, about a faith-filled, spiritual path to coping, healing and forgiving in the wake of tragedy. She is also one of the founders of Safe and Sound Schools.

Jack Pinto, age six

Jack had a huge smile and a love for mischief. He loved playing sports and, most of all, being with his big brother.

To honor his memory, his family has supported Kids in the Game, an organization that provides funds for athletic programs for kids and schools that could not otherwise afford them.

Noah Pozner, age six

Noah loved playing deep imaginative games with his Legos and superhero toys. He went to school in a Batman shirt and Spider-Man shoes, listening to Gangnam Style, one of Noahs favorite songs, on the way. His twin sister, Arielle, survived the shooting.

In the wake of the shooting, Noahs father, Lenny Pozner, founded the Honr Network, a group that works to combat the conspiracy theorists who claim the Sandy Hook shooting is a hoax and that grieving family members are crisis actors. The Honr Network coordinates volunteers to monitor and take down hoaxer posts and videos. Working with tech companies like Google on this effort has been an uphill battle, one that has made Pozner himself the target of intense harassment. A Florida woman was sentenced to five months in prison earlier this year for making threats against him.

Caroline Previdi, age six

Caroline was joyful, a lover of art and dance. Before Christmas one year, she brought her piggy bank to her parents and asked to donate all of her savings to their church to make sure the every kid would have a present under their Christmas trees. At her funeral, some mourners wore pink, her favorite color, to honor her, the New Haven Register reported.

The Caroline Previdi Foundation provides support for kids without financial resources to engage in extracurricular activities.

Jessica Rekos, age six

As well as horseback riding, Jessica spent hours watching the Free Willy movies and taking notes on orcas, her family wrote. Mom, I just want to be friends with an Orca, she once said.

Her family wrote, she was always planning, asking questions, and figuring out the details. They called her our little CEO.

The Jessica Rekos Foundation supports horseback riding scholarships and research and internships on orca and whale conservation.

Avielle Richman, age six

Avielle
Avielle Richman.

Avielle had a spitfire personality, her family wrote. She was often barefoot. Asked what she wanted to be, she replied that she would like to be an artist … and a spy … and a fairy princess … and a writer. She loved to name things: the maple trees next to her house were Efford and Maeve.

The Avielle Foundation supports neuroscience research aimed at understanding the brains chemistry, structure, and circuits that lead to violence and compassion, as well as community education and outreach about neuroscience research and its findings, and how to promote brain health.

Benjamin Wheeler, age six

Ben was full of urgent questions that he wanted answered at once. He demanded attention. He loved lighthouses and dreamed of being an architect, a paleontologist and a lighthouse keeper all at once.

Bens Lighthouse, a community organization in Newtown, was founded to support Newtown youth over the long term as they dealt with the aftermath of the violence at Sandy Hook.

Allison N Wyatt, age six

Allison lined the walls of her home with rows of pictures she had drawn, and she loved drawing for people she cared about, from friends and relatives to her school bus driver. Her family wrote that they had found a final picture Allie had drawn for her first grade teacher, Victoria Soto, who was also killed in the shooting. It had a message: I love you, Love Allie.

The Allison Wyatt Memorial Fund has donated to St Jude Childrens Research Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House Charities and International Child Art Foundation.

Rachel Davino, age 29

A behavioral specialist, Rachel had a clear focus on helping adults and children with autism, her family wrote, and she had just completed the requirements to become a board certified behavioral analyst. Her soon-to be-fiance Tony Cerritelli had just asked her family for permission to marry her, and they were planning to become engaged on Christmas Eve.

Rachel was working on a family collection of Italian recipes for a family cookbook, and she loved karate, photography, cooking and baking. At a celebration honoring her life, she was compared to The Giving Tree, a Shel Silverstein book about selflessness.

Her friends and family made plans to walk and raise money for Autism Speaks to honor her life.

Dawn Hochsprung, age 47

Elementary
Elementary school principal Dawn Hochsprung. Photograph: Reuters

Sandy Hooks school principal was strong, confident, inspiring and compassionate, her family wrote. She balanced raising her two daughters with her own continuing education, always keeping in touch with her children as she moved from one meeting to another.

Dawn died as she lived: always in control, handling whatever came her way, her family wrote.

Erica Lafferty, one of her daughters, spoke about her mother at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton and her commitment to gun violence prevention. She is now a program manager at Everytown for Gun Safety, major a gun violence prevention advocacy group.

Anne Marie Murphy, age 52

When the shooting happened, Anne Marie Murphy, a classroom aide, wrapped a child in her arms, protecting him. Both she and the child were killed.

Thank you for respecting our privacy, her family wrote.

Lauren Rousseau, age 30

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/13/newtown-sandy-hook-shooting-victims-five-years-later