With messages flowing in from as far away as Ohio, Texas and Michigan, Bridgewater residents to bring donated toys and stuffed animals to those still suffering in the wake of Friday’s school shooting tragedy.
After sharing his story of spending Saturday in Newtown, showing Bridgewater’s support for those suffering, Young said he began hearing from residents across the country who wanted to help as well.
“I’ve noticed there’s a lot of division in the country, and this is showing me that when it comes right down to helping each other, Americans hop in and help,” Robert Young said.
Young said he already has a Jeep filled with stuffed animals—at least 75 so far—and people were planning to drop off toys at his home on Route 202/206 all day Wednesday.
In addition, Young said, one resident, who lives in Bridgewater but grew up in Alabama, is making a sign showing Alabama’s support for Newtown.
On Thursday, Young said, he will be driving to Bloomfield because a local church is collecting toys to donate. From there, with everything he has collected, he and his wife will be driving to Newtown to deliver the collected items.
“We are going to go back to the counseling center with the toys,” he said. “And some people went out to buy crayons and coloring books to give to them.”
Young said he is also planning to stand outside with his sign again telling everyone in Newtown that Bridgewater is supporting the residents there.
As for some of the toys, Young said he is going to try handing them out to whatever children want them.
“I know funerals are continuing tomorrow, and I can go near the church, too,” he said. “My plan was to, as some of the kids are coming, they can take a stuffed animal to hold.”
For those wanting to donate, Young said he will be at his property on Route 202/206 much of the day Wednesday, with plastic on the ground, where people can leave donated items. As of noon, he had already received six black bags of toys and stuffed animals.
“And then we will get it to where it needs to be,” he said.
In addition, Young said, his son set up a Facebook page to encourage people to get involved and donate when and where they can.
But this week is not the end for donations.
Young said people across the country have also said they will be sending him checks to purchase more stuffed animals and toys for the children in Newtown.
“We have things coming in from other states that will take a couple days,” he said. “We will go back after Christmas with the amount of checks people send us.”
Karen Mason, of Maryland, said it is difficult to know what to do in this kind of tragedy, but she was pleased to hear about Young’s trip to Newtown.
“I’m sure there are others like myself who have felt frustrated,” she said. “Unlike as with a natural disaster, the community isn’t in need of clothing or furniture or money.”
Instead, Mason said, she believes Young’s show of support with his sign sending love to Newtown from Bridgewater is what will be truly appreciated by the community.
So with a suggestion from reader Brenda Reagan, who read about Young’s story, and some assistance by reader Crystal Nifong, from New York, Mason is looking to send posters of support to Newtown as well through a project called "Signs of Love."
“I’m sure that many in this country, and in other nations as well, want to do something to show support but don’t know what to do,” Mason said. “I think a simple poster, or even a card, showing that Newtown is in our thoughts and that we care would be appreciate by the town.”
Mason said that Nifong made phone calls Tuesday about where to send cards, and was told they could be sent to Sandy Hook Elementary School at 12 Dickinson Drive, Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 06482.
“And the more posters or cards from around the country, the better,” Mason said. “We want them to know how many people from all over hold them in our thoughts.”
"Like many others, I too would like to help the community of Newtown however I can," Nifong added. "What do they need the most? Love. There are plenty of people out there leaving comments on Facebook and other sites but are those messages being seen? The best way to give them our love and support is by sending it directly to Newtown and that's the premise of this project."
Young said he is just happy to continue doing what he can to help, and is proud of the support he has received from around the country.
“I am glad to see people of all types are right now joining in this situation,” he said.