A message of gratitude this Thanksgiving from Nicole Hockley, our co-founder and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy.
It may be difficult to look back on the past year and immediately identify things to be thankful for. All you have to do is turn on the television, open a newspaper, or scroll social media to see a nation in crisis. Racial tensions and systemic injustice. A country divided by politics. And a pandemic that threatens not only our lives, but our very way of life.
When I lost my beautiful butterfly Dylan almost eight years ago it was hard to find a path forward. My life had been thrown into sadness and turmoil. I felt like I was at the bottom of a gigantic hole that I could never climb out of. I didn’t know how to help myself, never mind those I loved.
Renewed Sense of Purpose
But in the weeks and months that followed, and with the support of those around me, I found a renewed sense of purpose. To keep other children and families from enduring the same fate. It’s that same dedication I see in our network of parents, educators, and supporters. That gives me the continuing strength to move forward despite these difficult times.
I believe we will look back and see this time as a turning point. The time when we learned to become upstanders and take action, rather than remain bystanders passively allowing tragedies and unconscionable acts to occur. I see hope in the eyes of so many who have persevered despite the most difficult circumstances. And it gives me so much to be grateful for.
So Much to be Grateful For
As students, you’ve created more positive school environments. You’re helping combat social isolation among your peers and keep them connected. You created new and exciting ways to reach out to your communities and classmates, from writing messages of hope in your driveways to sending virtual high-fives to your classmates.
Educators have also faced an environment never experienced before. In spite of the challenges, you’ve continued to be innovative, fostering inclusivity and intervening when someone needs help. And you’re empowering your students to say something when they see something that concerns them.
I’m also thankful for our advocates and volunteers who carry our message forward and help to pass life-saving legislation like the STANDUP Act, which was unanimously endorsed by the U.S. House of Representatives this year. With your continued support, we hope to have a vote in the U.S. Senate soon.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the generosity of our supporters. Your contributions have allowed our programs to continue saving the lives of students across the country every day. It’s your generosity that’s creating a culture of change where every youth is safe from fear and violence.
And this year, I’m also thankful for the activists who have filled streets across the nation demanding justice after centuries of systemic racism. It’s through your words and your actions that we’ve realized we have so much more to learn – and so much farther to go – to become a society where every life is valued.
With You By Our Side
While the days can seem dark, I know that with all of you by our side we will continue to move forward. Together we can create inclusive communities where everyone is respected. Together we can drive out social isolation and end school shootings. And together we can keep our promise to make our community and our nation a safer, better place.
Without your passion, support, and dedication, this important and life saving work wouldn’t be possible. It’s always difficult to face tragedy, but it’s through your support that has allowed the life of my beautiful little butterfly Dylan, and all the other children who were taken from us too soon, to have meaning.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping us keep our promise to protect kids.