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Sandy Hook responds to West Madison’s ‘ducky’ gesture

Cheryl Bailey helped West Madison students in sending rubber ducks to students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Cheryl Bailey helped West Madison students in sending rubber ducks to students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – In April, West Madison Elementary School students reached out to their peers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The Connecticut’s special resource officer has returned the favor.

Like well-wishers around the world, West Madison shipped 450 initialed rubber ducks to encourage students at their new “closed” building. “That’s when Officer Todd Keeping came on duty. His children attend Sandy Hook,” West Madison teacher and duck coordinator Cheryl Bailey said. “They’re tearing the old school down and (rebuilding) on the same property.”

In light of the Sandy Hook murders, West Madison’s older students “definitely knew what happened. We had mostly sixth-graders helping us sell ducks,” Bailey said. A second-grader set up a lemonade stand after school to earn money to buy ducks to send.

‘Officer Todd’ manages “The Ducks of Sandy Hook” Facebook page, his medium to communicate with Bailey. “He was overjoyed by our students’ generosity to pay 1$ and not expect anything in return,” she said.

As a thank-you, Officer Todd “ducked us,” Bailey said. Todd shipped a green-and-white duck to West Madison teachers. “They call it ‘ducking’ someone.” Students received assorted ducks, resembling ninjas, cheerleaders, soldiers and astronauts.

Todd was off duty on the day of the shooting but his two children were at the school. “He went to the school immediately. There was just chaos,” Bailey said. After taking his children to safety, Todd returned to help. “He wasn’t comfortable telling me any more.”

West Madison students initialed the bottom of each duck. (CONTRIBUTED)
West Madison students initialed the bottom of each duck. (CONTRIBUTED)

After the duck fundraiser, Principal Dr. Daphne Jah received email from Dan Krauss, parent of a Sandy Hook second-grader. “It has been absolutely amazing what small little ducks can do,” Krauss wrote. “The ducks have gotten kids on the bus, to sleep in their own bed and through difficult days.”

“I must say this small idea blossomed into the best service project I’ve ever organized since I began teaching. I personally feel connected to Sandy Hook now through my friendship with Officer Todd,” Bailey said. “I hope someday we get to meet.”

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