Despite last Friday’s messy weather, more than 100 people gathered to dedicate a new playground in Westport in honor of Dylan Hockley, a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting.
It will be formally dedicated on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Among those who attended the dedication at Long Lots Elementary School last week were Dylan’s parents.
“Playgrounds are where kids come to play and have fun and they are a symbol of community,” Nicole Hockley, Dylan’s mother, said.
The “Sandy Project-Where Angels Play” was established by New Jersey firefighters, who are building 26 playgrounds in 26 Hurricane Sandy-ravaged communities, throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Each is dedicated to a victim of the Newtown shooting.
“This was an elementary school that needed a playground pretty badly, so it just seemed like a very good fit,” Bill Lavin, a New Jersey firefighter, said.
The PTA at the Long Lots Elementary School helped raise more than $11,000 toward the $117,000 price tag.
“Everyone touches this whole connection with the children and it just hits everyone's heart,” Lauren Goodman, the PTA president, said.
Dylan had a very special connection to butterflies and one of the ways Westport residents raised money for the playground was by selling magnets with a butterfly on them.
“Dylan was autistic and he flapped. He was a flapper, and I asked him once, ‘Why do you flap?’ and he said, ‘Because I am a beautiful butterfly,” Nicole Hockley said.
Dylan's favorite color was purple and slides were his favorite attraction and both are part of the playground. Everything on the playground is purple.
“He used to climb to the top of the slide. Normally, there's a safety bar at the top. He would swing off it and give us a fright, and then he'd slide down, just squealing all the way down,” Ian Hockley, Dylan’s father, said.
Dylan's older brother Jake was named honorary foreman of the project. “Having memories of his brother and keeping that memory alive and not trying to shunt it away and maybe having to deal with issues in the future, I think it is very special to him and he's been looking forward to it,” said Ian Hockley.
The Westport playground is the fourth of 26 to be built.