Last Friday morning, Kandice Castellino had no idea that two days later she would back in her hometown.
“I needed to be home with friends who make Newtown such an important place for me,” she said. “It was the most wonderful and most awful coming home experience that I have ever had.”
The 29-year-old Sandy Springs resident grew up in Newtown and was compelled to return, if only for 24 hours, last weekend, to grieve and help in any way she could. Castellino said she is among community members who started a relief fund to help with burial costs for family members of victims in Friday's shooting.
The website for Sandy Hook Elementary Victims Relief Fund reports nearly $112,000 raised so far.
“We expect each funeral to cost around $15,000, which means we need to raise over $400,000. With any money that we may raise over and above that, we would like to start a scholarship in the name of each person lost,” Castellino said.
She describes being back in Newtown as surreal. She played basketball in the Sandy Hook Elementary School gym. President Obama gave his speech in the high school she attended.
“It's very strange to hear about a tragedy that was so similar to Columbine; to have to hear news reporters talking about places where you rode your bike, flew a kite and fell in love. Those spots have been publicized for the world to see but not for what we all remember,” she said.
Castellino created a Newtown Pride Facebook page for the community to post memories.
She did not know the shooting victims but Castellino knows some of the surviving Sandy Hook Elementary School staff and has ties to teachers at nearby schools that were locked down on Friday, she said.
Castellino left Newtown in 2003 and arrived in Sandy Springs in 2011. Her parents Myles and Debbie Cohen have lived here since 2008. Her younger brother Gabriel is a senior at The Weber School.
Most of the family is traveling out of the country which intensified Castellino’s grief on Friday, she said. “I think if they had been here I would have felt more [comfort] being with them," she said. "I probably would’ve gone [to Newtown] anyway. I needed to be with my friends and the people that I love.”
More Ways to Help the Newtown Community
Purchase a Newtown Pride T-Shirt dated 12/14/12 for $25. The original design was created by Newtown Alumni and all proceeds will go towards the Sandy Hook Elementary School student families and PTSA.
Visit Newtown Patch. Also see The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia woman’s kindness to Newtown spread.
Click here to take our poll and comment: Does Motive Matter in Newtown Tragedy?