On October 29th, 2012 Hurricane Sandy made landfall in South Jersey. By October 30th, a majority of the region had been torn apart by the torrential rains, catastrophic winds and overpowering storm surge. Homes were reduced to rubble and the power-grid across the Northeast experienced one of its’ worst blackouts in history. With their homes destroyed more than 23,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters and prayed that the storm would pass. Though their prayers may not have been answered right away, they did not fall on deaf ears as a few angels prepared to restore some semblance of hope to the affected ocean communities.
When people think of angels they usually imagine exceptionally beautiful human beings with wings, a halo and an ethereal glow. The angels that are currently rebuilding playgrounds around the tri-state area may not have the wings, halo and glow but they certainly are performing small miracles with their hammers, drills and relentless desire to help those in need.
The Sandy Ground Project first took root around 2006 when Toni Giordano of Giordano Contracting, LLC met fire fighter Bill Lavin from the New Jersey Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association in the ruins of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Six years later the two would reunite after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Together, they made a pledge to build playgrounds for children across the still recovering tri-state area.
In less than two years the Sandy Shores/Where Angels Play Project has built 21 playgrounds in the regions, dedicating each one to a victim of the Sandy Hook shootings. Their most recent playground in Long Beach Township was in memory of Lauren Rousseau. Rousseau had landed a permanent substitute-teaching job at Sandy Hook Elementary just two months before the events that transpired on December 14th.
“All the families love the project,” stated Bill Lavin, “ The idea is that these (the Sandy Hook School victims) are angels that are going to watch over the angels that are still here for generations.”
If you’d like to lend a helping hand or donate to the project you can visit their webpage here.