November Meeting: Plans for 2019

The November meeting of the Sandy Hook Promise – Southeastern Connecticut Team reviewed the latest endeavors by our group. SHP – SECT was asked to speak at the National Federation of Democratic Women National Conference and tabling at the Connecticut Board of Education Conference. During the meeting, we discussed and formed ideas for a plan for our team in 2019.

The main goal for 2019 will be seeking out opportunities to present the violence prevention programs by tabling events or speaking to groups.  Some members suggested partnering with Mom’s Demand Action- Be Smart Program and speaking to the Sound Community Services in New London. Also, presentations could be brought forth at area Democratic Town Councils and other area civic organizations. Taking the steps to network and connect with educators, Board of Education members and Superintendents will be vital in implementing the programs into other school districts.

There will not be a December meeting of SHP -SECT due to the holiday season. The next meeting will be January 22, 2019.  Wishing you all a happy holiday season and a great New Year!  Hope to see you in January.

This blog was contributed by Gayle Oko and edited by Melinda Cassiere.


August 21st Meeting of Sandy Hook Promise – Southeastern Connecticut

This blog was written by: Gayle Oko


After welcoming three new members to Sandy Hook Promise – SECT, the meeting began by recapping all of the actions team members have taken since the last meeting. The main focus of the August 21, 2018 meeting was a workshop to teach team members more about the Sandy Hook Violence Prevention Programs and to discuss how to introduce the programs to a school district or other youth organizations. The steps towards implementation of the programs were then reviewed.  

Having a strong understanding of the programs themselves and knowing how they can be implemented into organizations will be important for all team members to grasp. There will be many opportunities to speak to others about the benefits and the ease with which the programs can be implemented. We have been graciously offered the use of the conference room within the Child and Family Agency in New London for our monthly meetings. Because of their generosity, it was decided that at each meeting members may choose to donate a small amount of money as a way of saying ‘Thank You’ every few months to the Child and Family Agency for the use of the space. This donation is voluntary and is not required to attend our meetings.

There are a few activities that will be coming up and in which members may participate. The Groton Fall Festival will be held at Poquonnock Plains Park in Groton on October 6th. We intend to set up a Sandy Hook Promise table where we can share that the violence prevention programs have begun in the Groton School District and spread the message about the Sandy Hook Promise initiative. Anyone interested in attending this, please let us know.  On September 16th at 3:00 PM at the UCONN recital hall, the choir ensemble, Unity – a Choir for Unity will perform “Don’t Shoot – Just Listen” in honor of those who lost their lives due to gun violence. If you would like to ride share, please let us know. We also would like to know if anyone is interested in researching possibilities for tabled events and if someone is interested in keeping us updated on legislation for which Sandy Hook Promise is advocating.   The next meeting will be held on September 18, 2018 from 6:30-8:00 PM at 254 Hempstead Street, New London, CT. Hope to see you there!


Workshops, Town Hall, and the Youth Summit

The June 19th meeting of Sandy Hook Promise – Southeastern CT was another productive brainstorming session by members. Three main objectives will be the focus for our team for the next few months: summer workshops for the Sandy Hook Promise programs, the “town hall” or panel discussion, and a potential youth summit.


For the members who are interested in putting the Sandy Hook Promise programs into schools across southeastern CT, Gayle and Kat will be hosting several summer workshops. These workshops will go over their strategy into getting the programs into the Groton Public Schools and will give our members the tools to get out into our communities and get more programs implemented in more places. If you are interested in these workshops, please e-mail and let us know that you’re interested and please feel free to suggest dates and times that you are available.

Also, in attempts to reach more groups, clubs and schools, SHP – SECT will be drafting a letter to begin sending out to groups, athletic leagues, PTO’s etc. to tell people our cause and mission.

Town Hall

The town hall or panel discussion was brainstormed during the meeting. We are aiming to host this town hall in mid-November. The first topic will cover gun laws and violence and will be titled:

Violence Prevention and Awareness: A panel discussion or current CT laws and procedures

We are aiming to have four panel members: a Chief of Police or firearms instructor, an educator, a student, and a fourth individual with experience with violence and/or victims.

We are attempting to find a location for the discussion. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please e-mail the team e-mail.

Youth Summit

Gayle and Michelle are in the beginning stages of planning a potential Youth Summit for area high school students. If you would like to be apart of this effort, please e-mail us or reach out to us on social media.



  • Sandy Hook Promise is asking Promise Leaders to please e-mail:

In the e-mail, please state that you would like the Sandy Hook Promise “Know the Signs” programs to be implemented in all schools to improve school safety.

** Please do not mention, guns, gun violence etc. in school because Education Secretary Betsey DeVos has proven to not respond well to anything “gun” or “gun violence” related.

  • If you’re a member of a social media community forum, please reach out to members of that community and see if there are any Promise Leaders or interested Promise Leaders out there. Offer for them to join us.
  • On Monday June 25 at 6 pm, Gayle will be doing a presentation for the Groton Board of Education members. If you can, please attend for support.
  • SHP will be putting out a link for a webinar soon that will explain grant programs for the programs. I will post the link to social media. Stay tuned!


The next meeting will be July 17, 2018 at 254 Hempstead Street New London, CT from 6:30-8:00 pm. Look forward to seeing you there!

May 22: Group Brainstorming

The May 22 meeting of Sandy Hook Promise – SECT was dedicated to brainstorming the main ideas that will be focused on: Town Hall or informational meetings, fundraising, Sandy Hook Promise programs and curriculums, and the potential youth summit.

Members broke out into areas that they may be interested in helping with in the future. The ‘Town Hall’ idea was discussed and suggested that a potential name would be “Sandy Hook Promise Presents…” to appeal to more members of the public. Members broke down the ‘who, what, when, where’ aspects of the town hall by suggesting that a panel of four people (police chief, educators, students etc) conduct a town hall style meeting in every town in New London county. The topics would be vetted questions ahead of time but include items such as gun safety, mental health, suicide, safety of schools and children etc. A potential goal of a September/October town hall was suggested.

In the fundraising category, members discussed the possibility of researching to become our own non-profit. All fundraising activities have been postponed until we can further research money raising questions with Sandy Hook Promise. If anyone has thoughts or questions in regards to this area, please contact one of us directly at

Gayle, Katrina, Cindy, and I would like to thank our team for the support and constant positive energy and enthusiasm. Without your reinforcement, energy, and great ideas, we would not be able to carry out the goals and mission of Sandy Hook Promise. We appreciate you!

A very special thank you to Representative Joe de la Cruz and his wife, Tammy for attending our May 22 meeting. We thank you for your support and for all of the insightful advice and ideas.

Knowledge is Power

The May 1 meeting of Sandy Hook Promise – Southeastern CT was both an educational and informational necessity for our group. The focus of the meeting was awareness and education regarding CT General Statutes related to firearms and the general idea of definitions and logistics of firearms. SHP – SECT believes that knowledge and understanding of the elements we are fighting for is the strongest advantage in effective gun control advocation. If we understand what the laws are than we can fight for the laws that need to be changed or added.

Tammy de la Cruz and Sgt. Sawyer of the Groton Town Police Department brought two different perspectives to our growing group tonight. Tammy de la Cruz is the wife of Representative Joe de la Cruz, who could not attend the meeting tonight due to an important vote on banning bump stocks and ghost guns. Tammy spoke about the vote and the importance of contacting representatives in regards to these types of votes. This topic resonates close to home for the de la Cruz’s, who tragically lost their son Joey Gingerella in December of 2016. With courage, Tammy spoke about that evening when Joey had gone out to meet up with friends at a local pub and ended up being shot 3-4 times after trying to come to the aid of a domestic violence victim. When speaking about gun laws in Connecticut, Tammy reiterated that strict gun laws only go so far when Connecticut residents can drive over the Rhode Island border to purchase ammunition and weapons with cash and a birthdate. While CT laws have been updated and transformed into strict and penalizing legislation, other states in this country have not leaving loopholes in the system.

Sgt. Sawyer gave an insightful look into gun control from the perspective of a law enforcement officer. Sgt. Sawyer spoke about firearms laws, the make up of a firearm, and spoke openly and honestly about common sense gun laws. His background as a firearms instructor and domestic violence liaison with Safe Futures was useful in answering the questions and concerns of members of SHP – SECT.

Kat and Gayle are still making great strides in the Groton Public School System with the Start With Hello and Say Something programs. As summer approaches, we will make more plans about which school systems to approach with the programs next.

After this meeting, members should understand the importance of calling and contacting our legislators about upcoming votes when it comes to gun control. Representatives Conley, de la Cruz, and Soto were not present at the meeting tonight because they were voting on an important bill in regards to gun control. Bump stocks and ghost guns are a perfect example of accessories and ACCESS to weapons that the general public does not need. It is vital to call and e-mail even if your representative believes in better gun control because they need to know the opinion of their constituents – especially us who are fighting the good fight.

After a very productive conversation and informational session, members of SHP – SECT could walk away from the meeting with a better understanding of CT firearms laws and the logistics of a firearm. Most importantly, members could see the empathy and humanity being poured into the room through the anecdotal situations from both Sgt. Sawyer, a police officer of eleven years and Tammy de la Cruz, the mother of a victim of gun violence. Sgt. Sawyer left us with crucial advice when it comes to this mission: “Take the high road.” When it comes to controversial and emotional issues such as gun violence, suicide, victimization, and constitutional rights and regulations, individuals are instinctively going to react strongly because these topics are intense, emotional, and highly personal. Everyone has their own stories and situations. Let us as SHP – SECT always take the high road and focus on our goals.

The next meeting will be May 22, 2018 at 6:30-8:00 pm at the Child and Family Agency located at 254 Hempstead Street New London, CT. Please e-mail us or message on Facebook if you have an idea for a meeting theme or speaker!

A very special thank you to Sgt. Sawyer and Tammy de la Cruz for speaking with us! We thank you!




Strength in Numbers

At the April 4, 2018 meeting of Sandy Hook Promise – Southeastern Connecticut, we welcomed six new members into our circle of teammates. Team members discussed and brainstormed ideas in the following areas and subjects: Sandy Hook Promise violence prevention programs, advocacy, awareness, empowering and educating our communities, spreading the message, and activism. The overall theme of the meeting was continuing to contribute to the overall Sandy Hook Promise message that gun violence is preventable.

Gayle and Kat have taken great strides and have received approval to bring the programs of Sandy Hook Promise into the Groton Public School district. Fitch High School has already taken steps to implementing and organizing a Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) club. This club will reinforce and carry-out the programs throughout the school year. Meetings with the principals of the two middle schools and five elementary schools will occur within the next few weeks. Great progress is being made in the Groton Public School district!

The planning of the 5k fundraiser for Sandy Hook Promise is underway. A tentative date of September 30, 2018 is being used to start the process with the City of New London to obtain permits for Riverside Park. The Sandy Hook Playground of Emilie Parker is located within the park. The goal of this race is to raise money for Sandy Hook Promise so that they can continue implementing and developing new programs to put into school systems at NO cost to the schools. Sandy Hook Promise understands that through education, awareness of signs and signals, and taking action gun violence can be prevented. Sandy Hook Promise also encourages teaching children to be more socially inclusive and connected to their peers. A family-friendly event to raise money for the organization encourages family and friends to come together for a strong cause.

On May 2, SHP -SECT will have to attend a City of New London Parks and Recreation meeting to obtain a permit for the park. Before this time period, we have to obtain event insurance for the race. SNERRO Racing has provided a quote for the event. A timed event will cost $350.00 with a $2.00 charge per runner for a chip-timed race. Planning will continue throughout the month to obtain permits and insurance to ensure we can reserve the park.

A National School Walk Out Day is planned for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting. Sandy Hook Promise – SECT plans to march on this date. We will let you know as the date approaches the location and time of our planned march.

SHP – SECT is trying to acquire guest speakers, such as Representative Joe de la Cruz and the Sandy Hook Promise Ambassador Mary Welander for future meetings.

As a member of our community, we understand that the times we are living in right now are challenging. It is easy to turn on social media, listen to passing conversations, and watch the news only to get frustrated and discouraged with the jarring debates occurring. If you are tired of debating and placing blame, come join us. If you are emboldened to create transformations, please join us! Sandy Hook Promise offers research-based programs to our communities that we are ready and willing to plant into our growing and adaptive communities.

Walk-ins are always welcome to our meetings! Thank you!