HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Newtown officials and the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school have given away nearly 64,000 stuffed animals and thousands of other gifts that poured into town after the massacre.
An official says the last boxes of toys, teddy bears and school supplies were shipped out of the warehouse the town had been using on March 29.
Newtown officials say they have distributed all of the 63,790 stuffed animals and thousands of other items sent there in the wake of December’s shooting. The town received enough school supplies to fill 2,211 large moving boxes, and games and puzzles to fill 159, said Chris Kelsey, the town assessor, who was in charge of organizing the gifts. Other gifts included clothing, bicycles and quilts.
Sandy Hook and later Newtown families were able to pick what they wanted from the donations, through town-sponsored giveaways.
The rest went to charities, mostly chosen by the victims' families. They include hospitals, programs for children with mental health issues, victims of Superstorm Sandy even street children in India.
Tree Arrington, founder and director of REAL Skills Network Inc., said he became emotional as he watched the parents of 6-year-old Daniel Barden lug boxes of toys and school supplies up the stairs to his office in Poughkeepsie.
The organization provides educational and summer programs for underprivileged children in the area, and after their niece’s experience there, the Barden family decided it would be a perfect place to share some of the gifts.
Arrington said the Bardens’ donation allowed him to provide book bags and pencil cases to children who wouldn’t otherwise have one, as well as toys for a reading program.
Robbie Parker, who lost his 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, sent some of the donations to a group called Green Chimneys, which provides help for children with emotional and behavioral problems.
‘‘To go from the darkest moment that you could ever imagine yourself being in and being overwhelmed with love and support really does help you get out of that hole,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s been amazing to be a part of that.’’
Six-year-old Ben Wheeler’s family sent teddy bears in his memory to victims of Sandy in the hard-hit Rockaways area of New York City.
The Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn., ended up with 240 boxes of toys, school supplies and clothing, which the church’s youth group is repackaging to send to India to give to homeless children there. The church became the beneficiary through the family of 6-year-old victim Jesse Lewis. His grandmother has a good friend who is a member of the church and told them about the India project.
The families of Jesse and teacher Victoria Soto, who was hailed as a hero after her death for trying to shield students from the gunman, asked that some be given to the state Department of Children and Families.