Commentary: Giving thanks for recovery and healing

State Sen. Kevin Kelly
State Sen. Kevin Kelly

Each year at this time we are reminded to be thankful. As always, we are thankful for our families, our friends and our communities.

This year, especially, we should also be thankful for our ability to heal from the struggles and pain that was so fresh during last year’s holiday season.

From the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy to the fear and sadness our community felt after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 2012 challenged our faith and hope during the months that are supposed to be the most joyous.

This year, recovery is underway. While the pain and loss can never be erased, we have all worked as a community to heal together — and for that, I am grateful.

Superstorm Sandy

The pain of Superstorm Sandy was fresh during last Thanksgiving, but recovery was already starting.

I was amazed by the amount of neighbors who volunteered their time to help those who lost their homes find food, housing and other necessities in time for their holiday celebrations.

You donated food and funds, opened your doors to friends in need, and started the healing process for our whole community. Over a year later, recovery continues as we rebuild and support those who lost so much.

Sandy Hook tragedy

Recovery from the Sandy Hook shooting came in many different forms. One important healing step came in January 2013, just after New Year’s, when a school in Monroe opened its doors as the new Sandy Hook School.

Children were bussed from Newtown to Monroe for a fresh start, and given a new place where they could study, grow and learn to feel safe again.

As we moved through the year, the outpouring of love and support from our community did not diminish. Recently, more than 2,000 people participated in the Vicki Soto 5K, a flamingo-themed celebration with a special nod to Soto’s favorite animal.

The 5-kilometer road race united the community and supported the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund, a scholarship fund for aspiring teachers created to honor legacy of Soto, a young teacher and Stratford resident lost at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Little Free Library

Healing really does come in all shapes and sizes, as we witnessed when the Little Free Library was installed near the benches at Ackley Park in Stratford’s Lordship neighborhood.

The little library, inspired by Vicki Soto’s aunt, is a “take a book, return a book” community space where neighbors can share their favorite books.

It may be small, but it is a big addition to the community, providing a space to learn and share together.

Playgrounds built to honor those lost

Recovery from the two tragedies even overlapped at times during the past year. To remember those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook, 26 playgrounds are being constructed across the shoreline areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy, from New Jersey through Connecticut.

Each child and teacher has a playground dedicated to him or her, which serves as a living memorial. And each playground stands on the shoreline ravaged by Sandy, bringing life back into the affected communities.

The playground in New London, Conn., was the most recent to be dedicated.

Strength and perseverance

This season is a time to celebrate family, be joyous and give to others even as we remember and support those who have lost so much in the last year.

Our support for one another helps all of us heal and maintain the spirit of giving and gratitude throughout the year. I am grateful and thankful for our community’s strength, perseverance and ability to recover together.

Kevin Kelly represents the 21st Senatorial District, which includes all or part of Shelton, Monroe, Seymour and Stratford. Kelly, a Republican who lives in Stratford, can be reached at 800-842-1421 or at