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Rippowam Chooses Love to Remember Jesse Lewis

Raises funds for playgrounds honoring Sandy Hook

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Stamford, CT | Added on March 18, 2014 At 02:57 PM

Between every penny, dime and dollar given at Rippowam Middle School is a priceless message.  

"We're choosing love," said Amy Gibson, a music teacher at Rippowam.  

They're joining Stamford's 19 other public schools raising "pennies for playgrounds."  

"We have teachers bringing 50 dollars, we have kids bringing twenties," said Natalie Shclover, an 8th grader at Rippowam, "And so many pennies that you can't even imagine."  

In May, a playground will be built in honor of Jesse Lewis at Stamford's West Beach by the Sandy Ground project.   The Where Angels Play Foundation is building 26 playgrounds in honor of each life lost at Sandy Hook. 

"It just shows how much everyone cares and seeing the school come together to donate so much money.  We're almost at 2,000 and this is only the second week," said Indra Kapoor, who is also in 8th grade at Rippowam.  

Music teacher Amy Gibson is leading the school's fundraising efforts.  Like others on that tragic day, Gibson's life changed forever.  

"My close friends lost their daughter Ana Grace on December 14, 2012.  Just to know a 6 year old that died is something you never think you'd have to go through in your life," said Gibson.  

Remembering Ana, Gibson's 300 students wrote acts of kindness on purple hearts, Ana's favorite color. In honor of Jesse, the school is choosing love, even celebrating a "choose love" day.  The students wore pink, purple and red to show their spirit that day.  

"I think showing them this message can affect they way they grow up.  The way the go to high school, the way they go on to college and do big things and really change the world," said Gibson.

"Love, it takes patience.  You have to be respectful, you have to be caring, you have to be open-minded to people," said Shclover, "And most importantly, you have to be dear to one another."

Shclover was also there for a friend who lost a family member at Sandy Hook -- and seeing her classmates empty their pocket change, shows they can make a change.  

"Newtown is not far away from here, but it can happen anywhere and there's people like that, that can make it happen anywhere.  But there's also people who can stop it.  I feel like that's what I'm doing and what all of us are doing is helping to stop it," said Shclover.  

During lunch, Gibson and her students, including Natalie and Indra, collect donations for the playground.  

"Going through this is probably the most healing thing I've done in a year and a half," said Gibson.

Proving you can't buy love, you choose it.

"I just wanted to show the kids how they can choose love over hate in their every day lives," said Gibson.


In memory of Jesse, his mother created the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.  The playground is planned to be open in May.  The community-wide fundraiser ends March 24.  


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