NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk will host one of the 26 playgrounds being installed across the tri-state area in honor of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting.
Norwalk was chosen as the site for the playground dedicated to Allison Wyatt, a first-grade student who died in the Dec. 14 Newtown tragedy.
“She was a sweet, creative, funny, intelligent little girl who had an amazing life ahead of her,” Allison’s parents wrote on her memorial page. “Our world is a lot darker now that she’s gone, but we have been finding signs of her everywhere and know that she will always be with us."
The playground is part of the Sandy Ground Project, organized by the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association after Hurricane Sandy. Local firefighters also are involved in the fundraising and planning for the project.
“It’s a great program, a great dedication to these innocent lives that were lost up in Newtown,” Norwalk Fire Capt. James Hines said to the Common Council earlier this year.
The initial idea was to build playgrounds in towns in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut that saw heavy damage during the storm. After the Newtown shooting, the group decided to build 26 playgrounds: one in honor of each student and teacher who died in Sandy Hook School.
Norwalk will be the fourth Fairfield County town to host a one of the sites. The project already has built a site in Stratford to honor teacher Victoria Soto and one in Westport for Dylan Hockley. This past Saturday, the group opened its playground dedicated to Jessica Rekos in Fairfield.
The victims’ families are involved in the planning process for each location, so each playground reflects the personalities and interests of its namesake. Hines told the Norwalk Common Council he hopes to include a goldfish theme, as Allison frequently carried the cracker around with her.
The council voted unanimously to accept the playground in June. The Parks and Recreation Department suggested placing the playground in Oyster Shell Park, according to the meeting’s minutes.
“This playground will stand on reclaimed ground: an old landfill, with incinerated remains of refuse from long ago,” Jerry Petrini, chair of the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, said to the council earlier this summer. “[It will be] built to a thing of beauty that will only remind us of the great spirit of the people of this city, state and country.”
Private donations will cover the entire cost of the playground’s construction. Norwalk and Westport’s firefighters will have a fundraiser for the playground from 3-8 p.m. Sept. 21 at O’Neil’s Irish Pub, 93 N. Main St., Norwalk.
The event will include pizza from The Pizza Truck Co., live music, raffles and other activities. Those interested also can make donations to the Sandy Ground Project at the organization’s website.