NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT (CNN) — The chilling sound of multiple gunshots shattered the relative quiet of the school day at Sandy Hook Elementary School at around 9:30 Friday morning — children screaming, then silence, as teachers did their best to protect their students and keep them quiet, hoping desperately the shooter would not find them.
This is a morning no one in this small town in Connecticut will ever forget; the morning a gunman forced his way into the school and killed 26 people — six adults and 20 children, all under the age of 10; the last morning some Newtown, Connecticut, parents would see their kids alive.
As the community reels, organizations are setting up ways to help through donations and support.
An official fund for victims’ families, and the community as a whole, has now been established: The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, set up by the United Way of Western Connecticut will provide support services to families and the community. All donations to this fund will go directly to those affected.
The Red Cross has also been on the ground, offering food and water to first responders, and providing more than 50 units of blood to Danbury Hospital where some of the victims were transported. They have set up a center for emergency grief counseling.
In addition, the nonprofit mental health clinic Newtown Youth and Family Services was open all weekend for grief counseling. They say all donations made at this time will go to helping those impacted.
The Newtown Parent Connection has also pledged to try and bring in extra counselors to help parents cope.
Some private funds have also been set up in the wake of the tragedy to help victims. The Newtown Memorial Fund is taking donations for the families and community affected, and is also actively recruiting volunteers and offers of help of all kinds. A fund has also been set up to help the family of 6 year old Emilie Parker, who was killed at Sandy Hook. For ways to help her family you can visit the fund’s Facebook page.
The band One Republic has also started a fund to raise money for those affected. You can find details on how to donate to One Republic’s fund here.
For families from the Newtown area, and even beyond, a pressing problem will be how to help children cope with the aftermath of this tragedy — and indeed how to give parents space to grieve, knowing their children are being looked after. To that end, Save The Children has opened a “child-friendly space” in Newtown to give kids a place to play and express themselves while parents seek support or counseling. The space is located in Newtown’s Reed Intermediate School, where students of Sandy Hook elementary go after graduating.
In addition, Save The Children has released 10 tips for parents wondering how to help their children deal with their feelings about such a traumatic event, such as spending extra time with your kids, and limiting TV time.
A number of other organizations, such as the National Association of School Psychologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have released recommendations for parents and teachers as to how to support children if they want to talk about what happened.
You can send words of support and messages for families affected in an evergram here. They will be collated and given to the families in the future.
The Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection says anyone wishing to volunteer should call 211 or (800) 203-1234.