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50ce4ac2541e7AN INCREDIBLE RESPONSE! Donations for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary were stored in the WMS/WHS Library. On Friday, Dec. 21, all donations were loaded onto an enclosed 16-foot trailer and transported to Newtown, Connecticut. THANK YOU to all who have supported this drive!
AN INCREDIBLE RESPONSE! Donations for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary are being stored in the WMS/WHS Library. This picture was taken Tuesday after school! On Friday, all donations will be loaded onto a trailer and transported to Connecticut. THANK YOU to all who have donated so far!
AN INCREDIBLE RESPONSE! Donations for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary were stored in the WMS/WHS Library. On Friday, Dec. 21, all donations were loaded onto an enclosed 16-foot trailer and transported to Newtown, Connecticut. THANK YOU to all who have supported this drive!

Overwhelming Response Proves "There is More Love Than Hate"

Local Donations Delivered to Newtown, Connecticut; Received with Tears, Hugs & Open Arms

We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this drive such a success! In addition to stuffing (and we DO mean stuffing!) a 16-foot enclosed trailer with toys, blankets, pillows, cards and snowflakes, we were also able to give over $3,500 in monetary donations to Sandy Hook Elementary, to use as they see fit.

The video new coverage below is from Fox News Connecticut, which was also broadcast on Fox stations across the country:

We departed from Wahoo at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, and arrived in Connecticut on Saturday, Dec. 22 at approximately 2:00 p.m. Eastern time (1:00 Central). Special thanks to CT resident Nancy Yarmon Tortora (WHS alumnus), who had everything organized on that end once we arrived. Nancy met us just outside of Newtown with a group of adults and teens from her church. We then followed them to a designated drop off site in Newtown, where numerous volunteers welcomed us with hugs and open arms, and assisted with unloading the donations.

This was a very organized effort, and it was heart-warming to see the volume of donations that had been received from around the country. At the drop off location, all items were carefully inspected and sorted. All stuffed animals, toys, and school supplies were placed in separate rooms. There was a special room designated for all letters and hand-made snowflakes, which will be used to line the hallways of Sandy Hook's temporary building to create a winter wonderland theme for the students' return after the Christmas Break.

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The most sacred items were those addressed to individual families. These items and care packages were respectfully taken to a very private location within the facility, where they are picked up by members or representatives of the families that lost loved ones in this tragedy.
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The man in charge at the drop off site assured us that 90 percent of everything received would stay locally. Any items not used by Sandy Hook students and staff will be donated to the two children's hospitals in Connecticut, social welfare programs and shelters in the state, and some may also be sent to New York and given to those whose homes were devastated earlier this year by Hurricane Sandy.

Once we were finished unloading, we enjoyed dinner with Nancy and her family Connecticut-style (lobster!). We then went back to Nancy's home, slept for five hours, woke up at 12:30 a.m., and were on the road again at 1:00 a.m. Eastern, bound for home with a bounty of food and drinks provided by Nancy and her church. Road conditions on our return trip were excellent, and we arrived home at 9:45 p.m. Central on Sunday, Dec. 23.

More details, pictures and video highlights of our journey are posted on our "There Is More Love Than Hate" Facebook page. Locally, the following news sources have posted articles since our return home (pre-journey articles/newscasts are linked toward the bottom of this page):

Fremont Tribune (The Tribune also ran a column by Tammy Real-McKeighan)
Omaha World-Herald
Wahoo Newspaper

We would like to extend our appreciation to Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church in Omaha, and Randolph Elementary School in Lincoln, both serving as willing drop off sites for donations.

And finally, we need to show some love to UPS in Columbus, NE. We received a phone call from a Columbus resident saying she had gathered "lots" of items for our drive, but she couldn't get them to Wahoo because of the snow storm (blessing in disguise, because there's no way it would have fit into the trailer). UPS stepped up to the plate and said they would deliver everything to Newtown, CT. Her response: "Um, I don't think you understand how much stuff we're talking about!" UPS response: "We've got it covered!" THANK YOU UPS!

Thank you again for your show of support. We can assure you it didn't go unnoticed! We hope you have had a peaceful Christmas with your families, and enjoy a Happy New Year!


UPDATE (12/19/12): At this point, we have determined that it is unnecessary to purchase additional toys with the cash donations, SO, unless there are any objections: We will take all cash donations, and before we leave, Wahoo Public Schools will generate one check for the amount, payable to "Sandy Hook Elementary" and we will give the check to the school to use as they see fit (help with expenses, purchase materials for newly established classrooms, etc.).

If you have already purchased a toy and haven't yet had a chance to deliver it . . . wonderful! If you still plan to donate but haven't had a chance to purchase a toy, please consider a cash donation to the school. Again, we cannot say THANK YOU enough! We are truly amazed by the response, and really appreciate your help in making this effort an unbelievable success!!!

SPECIAL REQUEST from Sandy Hook Elementary in CT: SNOWFLAKES! As they prepare to move into a different facility, they are seeking hand-made snowflakes, which they will use to decorate the hallways. Please feel free to make snowflakes with your children, and forward them to the high school (messages on the snowflakes are also encouraged)!


"There Is More Love Than Hate"
Donations Requested for Week-Long Toy Drive for Traumatized CT School/Community

"It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." --Anne Frank

To help drive home the message that "There is More Love Than Hate" (too much time reading/watching the headlines tends to persuade us to believe otherwise), we would like to bring a little happiness to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, who now begin the process of healing from Friday's unimaginable assault on their innocence.

With the assistance of Jason Stevens (former WMS/WHS Music Instructor, and current Music Teacher at Millard South High School in Omaha), we have initiated a toy drive for the students of Sandy Hook (If you have a FaceBook account, please visit http://www.facebook.com/ThereIsMoreLoveThanHate). 

We are asking for new toy donations suitable for elementary students, which will be gathered throughout the week. Cash donations are also being accepted (please make checks payable to "Wahoo Public Schools"). Later this week, a group of local women will take cash donations to purchase additional toys for the drive.

Please help by donating anything FUN and/or COMFORTING:

New Toys (unwrapped)
Teddy Bears & Other Stuffed Animals
Pillows & Blankets
Cards & Notes of Encouragement

Please bring all donations to Wahoo Middle/High School (2201 N. Locust). We have placed large boxes by the curb on the main driveway in front of the school where toys and other donations may be left. For monetary donations, please ring the buzzer on the main entrance of the school, and the WHS secretaries will accept your donation. Donations will be accepted from 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. All donations should be at the school by Friday morning, Dec. 21.

On Friday afternoon, all items will be loaded into an enclosed trailer (or trailers!), and we will transport everything to Connecticut. We have connected with Wahoo native Nancy Yarmon Tortora, who lives very close to this school. She has offered to work with her church in giving us a place to drop off all items collected, and they would then make sure they get distributed to the students at Sandy Hook Elementary.

If you live in the Omaha area, donations are being accepted at the Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church (15005 West Q Street in Omaha). The church will accept donations from Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

If you live in the Lincoln area, donations are also being accepted at Randolph Elementary School (1024 S. 37th Street in Lincoln) during school hours through Thursday. All items collected at this site will be transported to Wahoo Thursday evening. Special thanks to their guidance counselor Suzie Mahoney (former Wahoo Elem/MS Guidance Counselor) for organizing this site!

In addition to dropping off donations during the school day, please feel free to bring donations during this week's evening events at Wahoo High School:
    Monday: School Board Meeting (6:00 p.m.) & MS/HS Christmas Vocal Concert (7:00 p.m.)
    Tuesday: Home Basketball Game vs. Lincoln Lutheran (4:30-9:00 p.m.).
    Wednesday: Athletic Booster Club Meeting in the ms/hs library (7:00 p.m.)
    Thursday: MS/HS Christmas Band Concert (7:00 p.m.)

If you unable to donate during these hours, please contact Jason Stevens at 402-617-3505 or Dave Privett at 402-443-7676 to make other arrangements. If needed, we are more than happy to pick up donations.

Please help spread the word! Please Click HERE to view a flier outlining the toy drive, which you can post or forward as needed.

The effort is being covered by media sources in both Omaha and Lincoln:    

10/11 News - Lincoln
Fremont Tribune
KETV Channel 7 News - Omaha
KLIN Radio - Lincoln
KMTV Channel 3 News - Omaha
Lincoln Journal-Star
Omaha World-Herald
Wahoo Newspaper

Thank you for your support, and please keep the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, survivors, families and the community in your thoughts and prayers.


Resources for Teachers & Parents (courtesy of the American School Counselor Association):

Helping Kids During Crisis

• Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.

• Limit exposure to television and the news.

• Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.

• Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.

• Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things . . . I can't think of a better way to do this than your "Spread Love Not Hate!!" Kids love to help during a crisis. Making cards is a great way to get them involved. 

• Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.

• Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

Talking to Children about Community Violence
by David Fassler, M.D.
Taken from American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (www.aacap.org)

Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a tragic incident of community violence with children. Although these may be difficult conversations, they are also important. There are no "right" or "wrong" ways to talk with children about such traumatic events. However, here are some suggestions that may be helpful:
    • Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions. At the same time, it's best not to force children to talk about things unless and until they're ready.
    • Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know, or eventually find out, if you're "making things up." It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.
    • Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child's age, language, and developmental level.
    • Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard for them to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.
    • Acknowledge and validate the child's thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.
    • Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety or the safety of friends and relatives, especially those who are away at college.
    • Let children know that lots of people are helping the students, teachers, and families affected by the recent shootings.
    • Children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They are very interested in how you respond to local and national events. They also learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.
    • Don't let children watch too much television with frightening images. The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.
    • Children who have experienced trauma or losses in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to news or images of violent incidents. These children may need extra support and attention.
    • Children who are preoccupied with questions or concerns about safety should be evaluated by a trained and qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need additional help include: ongoing sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts or worries, recurring fears about death, leaving parents or going to school. If these behaviors persist, ask your child's pediatrician, family physician, or school counselor to help arrange an appropriate referral.
    • Although parents and teachers may follow the news with close scrutiny, most children just want to be children. They may not want to think about or discuss violent events. They'd rather play ball, climb trees, or ride bikes.

Incidents of community violence are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, some young children may feel frightened or confused. As parents, teachers, and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner.

Fortunately, most children -- even those exposed to trauma -- are quite resilient. However, by creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and experiences, and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties.

David Fassler, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vermont. He is also a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

More information about helping children cope with violence and trauma is available at:


Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children (article)

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Overwhelming Response Proves "There is More Love Than Hate"

Julie Anderson
Wahoo SchoolsMusic Teacher

Dec 26, 2012

There are a lot of big hearts in and around our community...AMAZING!I feel blessed to live among so many giving people. Also, thank you Jason Stevens and Dave Privett for having the biggest hearts of all.You are an inspiration and living proof of the good in this world. :-)