In late 2012, the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association was committed to providing much needed advocacy and ongoing support for firefighters, their families and their communities struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Just two months after Hurricane Sandy hit, America was stunned following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
In the days and weeks that followed, the FMBA – like so many others – struggled to find a way to appropriately honor the children, teachers and the families of this tragedy. The NJFMBA President at that time, Bill Lavin from the Elizabeth Fire Department, and members of the NJFMBA had recently worked on building playgrounds in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bill’s idea was to build 26 playgrounds in Hurricane Sandy destroyed communities – one to honor the memory of each teacher or student lost that day in Newtown, CT.
The Where Angels Play Foundation was founded and its first tribute initiative “The Sandy Ground Project” was completed in just 18 months. Twenty-six playgrounds were constructed along the coast of three states and built by firefighters, police officers, teachers, school administrators and community volunteers. Each playground reflects the personality of the teacher or child for whom it is named and the project had unanimous approval and blessings of all 26 families.
These very same Newtown families have chosen to “pay it forward” by helping to continue our initiative to build playgrounds in needy communities across the country. Since completing The Sandy Ground Project, the Where Angels Play Foundation has built playgrounds in Mississippi, Massachusetts, and as even as far and Ontario, Canada and Kibeho, Rwanda.