Birthdays. Holidays. Even dental checkups. Milestones go from celebratory to excruciating when you’ve lost a child. And without my sweet little Daniel – who lived his short life with compassion, empathy and zest – the first day of school is one of the toughest.
Many parents tell me this milestone has become more terrifying than joyful. With seemingly no place completely safe – movie theaters, schools, even churches – putting your precious child on the school bus can feel more like a leap of faith than a comforting routine.
What helps me make that leap is knowing that through Sandy Hook Promise’s work to protect children from gun violence, I’m doing everything I can to prevent another tragedy like ours. As millions of children head back to school, a group of generous donors has pledged to match every gift supporters like you make so Sandy Hook Promise can expand its lifesaving programs. Here’s the challenge: We must raise $60,000 by September 1 to unlock the match.
If you’ve been waiting to give, now is the time – please donate today to turn your $10 gift into $20, your $26 gift into $52 or your $100 gift into $200.
When those first yellow buses roll out in late August, I’m flooded with memories of Daniel. Daniel hunched in a sprinter’s crouch so he could run alongside the bus for a block before he climbed aboard. Daniel greeting his bus driver, Mr. Wheeler – the two had a wonderful friendship – with a bear hug and all the magical, mischievous energy a 7-year-old boy brings to a new school day.
I’d do anything to have even one of those mornings back – but all I can do instead is protect them for you and every parent sending children back to school in the coming weeks.
This fall, Sandy Hook Promise will launch a downloadable toolkit for parents and community leaders to bring our lifesaving programs to more schools and youth groups across the country. In October, we’ll hold a National Say Something Promise Week, when thousands of participating groups will teach young people to prevent tragedies by alerting an adult to potential dangers.
We believe these new programs will save countless lives – and so do our generous donors. That’s why they’ve agreed to match all gifts before September 1. Please, donate now to help us unlock the match and protect more children.
As another school year looms, I can’t help but think of the teachers who will never get to see Daniel’s spark; of the children who might spend recess alone without kindhearted Daniel there to offer a gesture of friendship.
But I also think of my other children, James and Natalie, and how the best way to honor Daniel is to keep all of our children safe this year. With your support, we will do just that. We will celebrate every magical milestone. We will turn tragedy into transformation.
Mark Barden (Daniel’s father)