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Students honor Newtown victims


March 21, 2013
<b>Williams Middle School students Piper Beaulieu, Ryan Lehouiller, Peter Chabot and Kevin Gonzalez display blankets they made to be donated to local charities in honor of the victims of the  shooting at Shady Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.</b> <br>Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

Williams Middle School students Piper Beaulieu, Ryan Lehouiller, Peter Chabot and Kevin Gonzalez display blankets they made to be donated to local charities in honor of the victims of the shooting at Shady Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — For students at Williams Middle School, an unspeakable tragedy became a chance to do something to warm people's hearts, and then some.

Students at the school have spent the past few months since the New Year making and donating blankets to local charitable organizations in the name of the people of Newtown, Conn., in the wake of the deadly shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

"The idea originally was to donate the blankets to Newtown, but with the huge amount of donations they were receiving they are only accepting monetary donations at this time," Chris Collins, principal at Williams Middle School told Reminder Publications. "That's when we decided that we could donate them to local needy places in Newtown's honor."

Each blanket has a special tag commemorating the people of Newtown.

Williams Middle School has a block of time integrated into its schedule called advisory time when students meet with teachers and staff in small group settings for team building and other enrichment exercises. It was during this time that the students made the blankets, the idea for which originated from teacher Cindy McSheffrey.

Using more than 120 yards of fleece that was donated by a local fabric company, students personally made more than 60 blankets that have been distributed throughout Western Massachusetts to places such as The Gray House.

"The great thing is that the kids made these blankets themselves. They didn't sit there and watch teachers make them for them. They were active in this project," Collins said.

The response from the community, Collins said, has been "wonderful," adding that he recently received a letter of thanks from Dena Calvanese, executive director of The Gray House.

While a large portion of the supply of blankets has been distributed, the school and the student body are still looking for more charitable organizations in need of them.

"We haven't shipped them all out yet," Collins said. "Some have gone, but we have others we would love to give out."

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