Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Kissing Hand For The Sandy Hook Elementary Students

There was a young raccoon who didn’t want to go to school. School was big and scary. He asked his mother if he could just stay home with her and play with his toys and books. His mother knew that he would love school once he got there, so she shared a secret that would make his school time as warm and cozy as days at home.

There are young children now that are apprehensive about going back to school. It’s not just the usual jitters about going to a new place with all different kids and adults and none of the familiarity of home. This is real trauma caused by an unspeakable act of violence that no child should have to endure or witness. These are the Sandy Hook Elementary students of Newtown, Connecticut. Only a short time ago, their classmates, teachers and principal were brutally murdered while they hid in fear of their lives. One first grade class was entirely executed by the gunman, save a single student.

Soon, these children will need to start school again for the spring session. Is there any way at all to reassure them that now it’s OK? Is there a way they can be comforted if scary thoughts enter their minds? Is there anything at all that can help them cope with those fears yet continue with their lives?

Kim Piscatelli of East Hampton, Connecticut believes she has found at least part of the answer. The secret is the one revealed in the children’s book, “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. In the book, Chester Raccoon’s mother kisses him on the palm of his left hand and tells him that whenever he feels lonely and needs a little love from home, he should just press that hand to his cheek and think “mommy loves you.” Then that very kiss will jump to his face and fill him with toasty warm thoughts. This was just what Chester needed to rebuild his confidence so he could go wherever he needed to, including school.

Kim’s breakthrough is a plan to give each child in Newtown a copy of “The Kissing Hand” and a pair of mittens or gloves with a heart attached to the left palm. The book’s publisher, Tanglewood Press, has donated 1,600 copies ready for distribution when school begins again right after the holidays. Now Kim is calling out to everyone who thinks this is a good idea to send in mittens and gloves with cloth or button hearts on the left palm. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each child could get a pair of mittens and a book as soon as they arrive for class?

Response has been enthusiastic. Knitting clubs everywhere are busy creating new children’s mittens with the little palm hearts. It’s a terrific outpouring of genuine affection from those who watched in horror as this story unfolded and wished they could personally do something to ease the pain. But will it be enough? There are hundreds of Sandy Hook Elementary students and many times that number in other area schools traumatized by what’s happened. Is it possible to make sure they all have kissing gloves or mittens to brave the winter’s cold?

If you would like to participate, even with a single pair for one child, you can make or buy child size mittens or gloves and sew a heart applique or a heart button into the left palm. Then send your gift to:

The Kissing Hand Mitten Project
93 East High Street
East Hampton, Ct. 06424

My wife and I went out over the weekend and found pairs of nice knitted gloves in just the right size for elementary students at a local department store. Gloves seem to be much easier to find that mittens these days. The hearts came from a fabric store. We’re working on these now to ship as soon as possible. You’ll no doubt find just what you need at stores where you live.

I also found that Chester the Raccoon is available as a 9” plush doll through They are only $13.58 each (as of this writing) and if you buy two, you’ll be eligible for free shipping on orders over $25. I’ve sent a contingent of Chesters for support in the classrooms, but I’m sure that more will be welcome.

Here’s something else. The book, “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn is available on iTunes as a free download for your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for a limited time. It has text, pictures and audio narration. Of course, you can also buy copies of the hard cover book online or in retail stores a very reasonable prices if you would like to read the story yourself or with your own children.

Will the “kissing hand” be able to ease the fears of these young people and help them get back to something resembling normal routines? I’ve got to believe it is part of the answer and will do a world of good in a community shattered by the worst kind of violence imaginable. If you agree, please join The Kissing Hand Mitten Project and lend your own hands to this wonderful project. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you.

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