MONROE, Conn.—In early January, a large box was delivered to Chalk Hill School—Sandy Hook Elementary's retrofitted, temporary home here—with 500 rubber ducks inside. School officials, already inundated with donations in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, didn't quite know what to do with them.
Todd Keeping, a Monroe police officer from Sandy Hook who was assigned to the school, took the ducks, which had been sent from a Kiwanis club in Colorado, to his office.
The next day, Keeping and a fellow officer stationed at Chalk Hill spread dozens of the ducks around the school—in hallways, on window sills—for the children (and some adults) to take. They were snatched up within minutes, and within days the box was empty.
"They loved them, absolutely loved them," Keeping said. "The ducks bring joy to them—and that's exactly what they need."
The 47-year-old father, whose two children attended Sandy Hook Elementary, raised about $500 to order another batch, launching a Facebook page—The Ducks of Sandy Hook Elementary—to help solicit donations.
He then posted photos of the ducks—submitted by Sandy Hook parents, staff and fellow police officers—taken in a variety of locations, from the exotic (London, Paris, Cape Town, New York, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall) to the symbolic (the Columbine Memorial). Keeping, who accompanied a group of Newtown students to the the Super Bowl in New Orleans, even snapped a photo of a duck with a San Francisco 49ers cheerleader.
"We're hoping to get more celebrities to pose with them," Keeping added. (That means you, Ellen.)
The meme has generated more than 5,000 "likes" on Facebook—and unquantifiable love to Sandy Hook Elementary schoolchildren still shaken by the Dec. 14 massacre.
"There are some kids who will only come to school and get on the bus because I promise them they'll get a duck," Keeping said. "Some parents tell me that the ducks are the only way they've been able to get them to sleep in their own bed."
Donated ducks continue to arrive at a special address set up by Keeping, and he says he'll continue to place them throughout the school.
Note: For those looking to help or wanting more information, visit the Ducks of Sandy Hook Elementary Facebook page. You can also place an order for ducks through Oriental Trading by calling 1-800-228-2269 (they'll ship 'em for free) or send them directly via the address below:
The Ducks of Sandy Hook Elementary
261 S. Main Street #312
Newtown, Conn. 06470