The Sandy Ground Project: Where
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One week after Hurricane Sandy destroyed much
of the New Jersey coastline and only hours after power was restored
to the NJFMBA State office, I received a phone call from a
Mississippi businessman who had remembered New Jersey firefighters
and the playgrounds we had built there in the wake of Hurricane
Mr. Billy Lamb explained to me that the
community of Waveland and Bay St. Louis Mississippi were collecting
Christmas gifts for New Jersey children affected by the storm in an
effort to “pay it forward” to those who had showed such kindness to
them in their hour of need.
A trailer containing over 1,000 wrapped
Christmas toys arrived from Mississippi on December 22nd and
was distributed by volunteer fire departments throughout the Bay
Shore communities in Monmouth County.
The gesture from Mississippi was an absolute
spiritual “shot in the arm” for the NJFMBA and the hundreds of
members who had been serving the coastal communities in New Jersey
for the past 6 weeks in every capacity imaginable. Unfortunately,
just as our members and their families were starting to get their
second wind and make some sense out of the Jersey disaster, the
unspeakable massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in New
Town, Connecticut was reported to the country.
A horrified country brought to a standstill
with the realization that innocent children and teachers were gunned
down while conducting what should have been any normal, routine
Elementary School day. The understanding that this could have
happened any where in America and to any one of our children or
grandchildren was almost too terrifying to comprehend. Many of us
walked around in a daze and were saddened to such a degree that we
could only go through the motions of work or politics or social
How could this happen? How can this be
prevented in the future? Who really is to blame? What can we do
about it? All of the above questions will no doubt be debated for
years to come.
Here at the NJFMBA, like everywhere else, we
struggle to be productive and helpful and advocate for firefighters
and their families, while supporting countless communities
devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Under the leadership of
Vice-President Bob Brower and Northern District Vice-President
Herman Peters, the NJFMBA continued to help storm victims despite
the depressing and demoralizing news coming out of New Town,
For days we struggled with what we should or
could do to make a difference or at least focus our energies in some
productive and meaningful way. The call and news video from
Mississippi regarding the playgrounds we had built almost seven
years ago gave us the idea of what we needed to do.
The idea; the Sandy Ground Project, Where
Since we built three playgrounds in the gulf
in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it is only natural that we should
build some playgrounds here in New Jersey for our own communities.
Not only in New Jersey, but in New York and Connecticut who were
also devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In addition, in an effort to
honor and provide a lasting and living memorial to the 20 children
and 6 teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we should
build 26 playgrounds and dedicate each one to each of those slain.
26 playgrounds all along the coast of three
States built by firefighters and police officers and teachers and
volunteers in an attempt to connect two tragedies that eerily share
the same name in a way that people can never forget. Perhaps each
playground can reflect the personality of the teacher or child for
whom it would be named. A project that would only be done with the
approval of the families of those lost.
This project is estimated to cost somewhere
between 1.8 million and 2 million dollars. I must have asked twenty
individuals within the association as well as outsiders as to
whether this idea was crazy and whether it could be done. The
answer each and every time was not only could it be done, but
rather it can and must be done.
So that only leaves one question, Who’s In??
Strategy meetings regarding logistics as well
as celebrity and media contacts needed to raise this kind of money
to complete a project of this magnitude are currently being
scheduled. Any one reading this magazine who would like to help is
encouraged to call the State FMBA office @ 732-499-9250.
Here is a list of parks that have been
10 East Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright, NJ – Start
Date Friday, March 1 (Opening Ceremony 6:30am) – In Memory Of: Anne
Scholer Park, Union Beach, NJ – In Memory Of:
Father Capadanno Blvd, Midland Beach, Staten
Island, NY – In Memory Of: Catherine Hubbard
Westport, CT – In Memory Of: Dylan Hockley
Normandy Beach, NJ – In Memory Of: Chase
Rockaway, NY – In Memory Of: Noah Pozner
Ocean City, NJ – In Memory Of: Benjamin
Stratford, CT – In Memory Of: Victoria Soto
Mystic Seaport, CT – In Memory Of: Dawn
Our story on... NJ.com: http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2013/02/playgrounds_memorializing_newtown_victims_being_built_in_sandy-devastated_towns.html#incart_river_default
Radio spot on 101.5: http://nj1015.com/playgrounds-honoring-newtown-victims-going-up-in-sandy-ravaged-towns-audio/
Watch Video: http://wlox.videodownload.worldnow.com/WLOX_20121217234146607AA.mp4
More Info at