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Family sees sidewalk as symbol of unity in Newtown

- Associated Press - Saturday, January 25, 2014

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Not long after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Dr. Thomas Draper saw a way to help a community in pain.

The retired physician and medical adviser suggested the Children's Memorial Walkway, a sidewalk extending from the town's landmark flagpole on Main Street, down Church Hill Road to the village of Sandy Hook and right to the entrance to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

He said he saw the project as a way to "enhance the connectedness" of the residents of Sandy Hook with the rest of the people of Newtown.

It was not an inexpensive proposition, but Draper was undaunted. His family launched the Children's Memorial Walkway charity to collect funds.

They offered to kick-start the effort with their own money, with the hope they would be joined by other donors.

First Selectman Pat Llodra has announced the Draper family is committed to matching as much as $200,000 for the first phase of the project, which will be coordinated by town building and land-use officials.

Church Hill Road is not completely without sidewalks, but they are patchy. The money the Drapers collect will be used to begin filling in missing sections.

"It is my hope that this donation will inspire other people to contribute to Newtown's larger sidewalk plan, to build our community around a sense of unity and togetherness," Draper's son, Joseph, said in a news release.

The charity's website, newtowncharities.org, describes the walkway effort as reflecting "the unity of our community in continuing remembrance and shared loss.

"The Children's Walkway will create those random serendipitous moments where people recognize each other as neighbors and friends. We are no longer strangers but villagers looking out for one another, particularly the young, old and frail," according to the website.

"A wide, well-built walkway will connect churches, schools and parks with our major areas of commerce (which) will encourage physical activity and unify our community."

What Llodra said she likes most about the Drapers' idea is that the sidewalk will show Newtown is one community. The shootings occurred in Sandy Hook, but its impact is far from isolated.

Sidewalks "bring people together," Llodra said. "They are a way to establish a community of walking, friendliness, congeniality."

This project fits with the town's comprehensive sidewalk plan, which will connect schools, parks and other community gathering places.

"When you develop your environment, people come together in a more natural way," Llodra said. "You share things together. In my vision, it's the way you build a community."

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Information from: The News-Times, http://www.newstimes.com

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