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The idea was hatched by Nicole Russo of Fairfield, Conn., who has two nephews who attend Sandy Hook Elementary School and were unharmed. She decided to bring her neighborhood’s Christmas tradition of lighting the way for Santa to Newtown.

“My husband and I were saying we feel so helpless; you know, we’re 30 miles away, and we’re helpless,” she said.

After a group of her friends got together and started a “Luminaries of Love” outreach campaign, about 40,000 bags were donated for their project, with Yankee Candle donating 10,000 candles.

The free bags and candles were quickly scooped up on Sunday in a couple of hours with many people offering cash donations that could help fund the project in the future.

“I want to do it every year,” Mrs. Russo said. “We don’t ever want to forget.”