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Warming the Cold Winter Ahead

Nicole Hockley with an educator and students wearing Start With Hello stickers.

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By Nicole Hockley, Co-Founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, and mother of Dylan, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, along with 19 other children and 6 educators

As fall becomes winter, I know that this cold, chilling season has arrived too soon. Although Dylan is never far from my mind, the bitter winter of remembrance seeps in and threatens to weaken my resolve. It is then, when I wince at the pain of losing my 6-year-old son, that I remember: I have made the Sandy Hook Promise.

Making the Promise

I’ve promised to devote my life to building this national organization (along with my family and friends) so I can protect other families from ever feeling the way I do. The way other families who have survived gun violence may feel. In those moments of agony, I try to remember to take things one day at a time. I’ve learned to believe that every day is a step forward. Sandy Hook Promise is a way for me to give my son, Dylan, a legacy that he could not have had otherwise.

I don’t want to be seen as a victim.

I don’t want people to turn away from me and think, “It’s so sad.” I want people to connect with me, to ask about my kids, and not feel fear while looking at me. I am not a victim. I’m a survivor, and we all have the power to do something to protect our children.

On the bad days, I try to remember that I’m working in Dylan’s name, to save the lives of other children. I’m protecting my living son Jake who DID survive that day and ensuring that he will have a positive future. Sandy Hook Promise reminds me to get up each morning with resolve, knowing that my actions, and the actions of others who have also Made the Promise, will prevent these tragedies from occurring.

We’re saving lives.

Our Sandy Hook Promise programs are not just about gun violence. They’re about awareness. Communication. Start With Hello is teaching kids about inclusiveness right from the start. Say Something is about talking with teens on anxiety, abuse, and addiction. Safety Assessment and Intervention is teaching adults to recognize the signs, and teens to recognize them with each other. Violence prevention is so much more than speaking about gun violence.

It’s about mental health.

In addition to educating people about the causes of gun violence, we’re focusing on the deficiencies of our current mental health programs. We’re looking at what is NOT taking place with current interventions, as well as promoting stronger efforts in social/emotional development.

One of the points I try to make clear to people is that someone with a diagnosed mental illness is highly unlikely to commit violence because they have received treatments and support.

For that same reason, our Sandy Hook Programs have been created to fill in the gaps for those with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness.

“What Can I Do to Help?”

So often, I’m asked where someone can begin to help Sandy Hook Promise and their community. Small but meaningful actions like the ones below create change.

1)      Make the Promise. Visit and learn more about our programs.

2)      Share at Home. Talk with your kids about guns, their friends, and gun violence. Watch our documentary—it will definitely open your eyes to topics you can discuss with your children now.

3)      Discuss Our Prevention Programs with ParentsSpread awareness and gain support from other parents about implementing our programs at your school.

4)      Find a School Champion. Talk with a favorite teacher, the school psychologist, or PTA President. Share your knowledge of our programs with someone who has influence and access to your principal or school district. Work with educators on how to better recognize the signs of children who may be troubled and reach out to their parents immediately. Our programs are designed to work with children beginning in 2nd grade and Sandy Hook Promise will cover the costs associated.

5)      Become a Promise Leader. Help children everywhere, by making a firm commitment to implement two of our SHP programs each year. Engage more people in sharing information about mental health and gun violence, host a neighborhood get-together, a fundraiser, or volunteer to speak with schools and youth organizations. We will provide you with training, cover your related expenses, and more.

6)      Wear Your Promise and Make a Donation. Sandy Hook Promise Foundation is a non-profit organization raising awareness on the causes of gun violence with a specific focus on mental health & wellness and gun safety. Donate now. With each donation, 75% goes directly into our Prevention Programs, with 25% earmarked for administration overhead and fundraising efforts. Shop our store. 100% of proceeds benefit our charitable work

It’s OK to Laugh…and to Cry

For those who have recently lost their loved ones due to gun violence or mental health issues, I want you to know that I feel your pain. I can only tell you that time and having a purpose is what has helped me triumph over this horrible tragedy. The first time I laughed out loud after Dylan was murdered, I immediately cried. Sobbed, actually. I felt so guilty. I thought, “How can I laugh again?”

“It has been said that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane halfway around the world. That a small change or single occurrence in one place can result in large differences elsewhere. It redefines the future.

That’s why I believe something positive will come from this. I refuse to accept this as a “senseless tragedy”. I believe Dylan and the others that died with him are catalysts. And while I selfishly wish my child was still here with me, and while I fear the empty space in my heart may never be filled, I am also at peace, taking comfort in the knowledge that his death will have meaning. There will be a positive change from this and we will be part of it.”

Nicole Hockley, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Sandy Hook Promise, and Mother of Dylan

We have reached over 300,000 children.

Sandy Hook Promise has implemented its programs in hundreds of schools across the country, educating thousands of adults, teachers, and professionals. I am so proud of the fundraising we have done and the massive support we have received from Promise Makers like you. Thank you so very much for all you have done. It means so much.


Make the Promise & Learn More About Sandy Hook Promise’s Programs