When the sun finally came out Saturday morning in West Haven, more than 300 runners were there to sing its praises and run in memory of first-grade Sandy Hook victim Charlotte Bacon.
“I think she would just be absolutely excited to know that all this is for her,” Charlotte’s dad Joel told NBC Connecticut. “She was very intelligent, just full of life.”
That liveliness was personified by Saturday’s event, a 5K road race to raise funds for the Sandy Ground Project, which was simultaneously putting finishing touches on a playground in Charlotte’s honor, just down the road at Sea Bluff Beach.
Joel Bacon explained that Charlotte’s perfect day was always a trip to Sea Bluff followed by a dinner of “shrimpies,” as she liked to call them, at Stowe’s Seafood on Beach Street.
“We have a lot of very happy memories of coming to here,” Joel Bacon recalled, “and we’re just thrilled to have the playground here now so we can come back to visit and just remember all the fun times with Charlotte.”
As has been the case with the previous 22 Sandy Ground Project playgrounds in the tri-state area – eventually there will be one for each of the 26 Sandy Hook victims – this playground bears distinctions of the person for whom it’s named.
“She loved animals, loved puppies, loved the color pink,” Bacon said. “Some of the art panels that we picked out – so we selected some of Charlotte’s art work that was most meaningful to us.”
He described safety partitions impressively adorned with renderings of his daughter’s drawings of various animals including a dog, a cat, and an elephant. The apparatus framework is, of course, pink, in keeping with Charlotte’s taste.
The race raised an estimated $14,000 for the Sandy Ground Project, much to the delight of co-director Denny Peterson.
“I’m speechless,” he said Saturday. “I think it’s amazing how the community has come out.”
Official ribbon cutting at Charlotte’s playground is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, June 15.