Playground in Milford, Conn. built in honor of James Mattioli. (Photo by Madison Hanlon)

by Madison Hanlon

Fri. Dec. 14, 2012, a day that millions of children around the world turned off their alarm clocks and prepared for the school day ahead. They ate their breakfast, brushed their teeth, took one last look in the mirror, and kissed their parents goodbye before running out to the bus stop with their lunchbox in hand.

In Newtown, Conn., a close-knit New England community, 20 of those children never came home that day. Dec. 14, 2012 marks the day that Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School, shooting and killing 20 students and 6 teachers.

The nation wept and grieved with the people of Newtown during a day that will go down in history as one of sadness, sorrow, and tragedy in America.

However, in the face of a negative event, something positive was brought into the world: The Sandy Ground Project.

Founded by Bill Laven and New Jersey firefighters, this organization is spreading hope to the people affected by this tragedy. Their mission is to create 26 living memorials to all victims of violence while creating safe, fun places for children to play.

The playgrounds are being built throughout New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut  to honor the victims of Sandy Hook, as well as to rebuild coastal communities that were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy six weeks prior.

This documentary is about the building and ribbon cutting ceremony of James Mattioli’s playground in Milford, Conn. The playground was built by the Sandy Ground Project. (Video by Madison Hanlon)

On Oct. 5, the last of the 26 playgrounds will be built in Watertown, Conn. in memory of Dawn Hochsprung, the late principal of Sandy Hook.

According to Eyewitness News, Hochsprung’s daughter and four grandchildren live in Watertown. The family says having this playground in their community makes them feel like they have a little bit of Dawn with them. This playground is also the closest Sandy Ground location to Newtown.

Laven and his team have made a significant impact on the families who have lost their loved ones. Although the 26 people who lost their lives that day will never step foot on these playgrounds, the people who do will be playing in memory of those that were lost.

Dec. 14, 2012 is a day that will be remembered as a one of sadness in the United States, but the Sandy Ground Project relieves some of that pain and perhaps, even for only for a brief moment, takes away that pain and replaces it with love and happiness.