Global show of support leaves Newtown "snowed in"

After requesting handmade snowflakes to help welcome Sandy Hook students to their new school, the Connecticut PTA found itself dealing with an avalanche.
CBS News

(CBS News) HAMDEN, Conn. -- Don't let the bright, blue sky fool you. This part of Connecticut is getting blanketed in snow. It started last month, when the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association asked for snow in a press release.

The release, which went out to fellow PTA members across the country, requested handmade "Snowflakes for Sandy Hook" to create a "winter wonderland" at the new school the kids moved into.

Two days later, the PTA got its first delivery.

Connecticut PTA President Jim Accomando
Connecticut PTA President Jim Accomando CBS News

"We were so excited. We said, 'Let's take a picture of it. We have a box already,'" says Jim Accomando, the state association president.

Asked how long it was before he realized what he'd gotten himself into, Jim replies, "Day two, and then day three, and then day four."

We're now on day 25, and the entire lobby is stuffed floor to ceiling. The entire office is crammed end to end.

"Literally an avalanche of snow -- we are buried in mail," Jim says.

And that doesn't include the semi-loads the post office has yet to deliver.

The snowflakes inside were crafted out of every conceivable medium -- mostly by children who sat down at kitchen tables and school desks across the country and poured their hearts into this project.

The Connecticut PTA initially thought they'd get a few boxes of snowflakes, but it found itself buried in mail.
The Connecticut PTA initially thought they'd get a few boxes of snowflakes, but it found itself buried in mail. CBS News

"I mean, I feel like crying," one child says. "It's children, just like us."

And it's that empathy -- that desire so many kids had to help -- that the PTA so vastly underestimated. Originally, they thought they'd get a few boxes, mostly from Connecticut, but their map with pins is now more pins than map.

And it's spreading globally -- to 50 countries, and counting.

"I'm under water with a straw right now, breathing," Jim says of the deluge of mail.

The problem is, for every one box they unpack, there's another dolly at the door, another delivery truck brimming. At this point, even if they decorate every school in the district -- which they plan to do -- there will still be millions of snowflakes left over. Jim and his staff may be shoveling out for months.

But Jim has no regrets.

"Oh my goodness, I wouldn't change this for the world," he says. "Because it's awesome."

Jim says that in addition to the snowflakes, a lot of the boxes came with handmade sympathy cards. Some kids tried to be an adult about it, but most just stuck to their innocence. A few donated their favorite football cards. Others sent in their piggy bank money. Now just imagine that much love multiplied this many times. Who wouldn't want to be immersed in that?

"We'll be here until the last piece of mail is opened," Jim says.

To learn about more ways to help, visit the Connecticut PTA website.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, e-mail us.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.