A local group is looking to create a healing gift in the wake of a national tragedy.
Phoenix Events LLC, which last November held the the 2012 Thanksgiving Wattle 5K in Grove City, has responded to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by creating a "gift-giving campaign" to honor the memory of those who died.
Organizer Mark Sigrist, who was born and raised in Grove City but now resides in Upper Arlington, said it will be a "gift from one community to another."
"This is an opportunity to do something big and lasting," Sigrist said. "This is something that's going to last a long time."
The goal of the effort is to raise $26,000 to pay for 26 outdoor benches that will be donated to Newtown to commemorate each of the victims of the shooting.
Sigrist said the benches will be Barco Cassidy Benches, carry engravings and plaques and meet the Newtown Park Guidelines.
"It's not cards and teddy bears," Sigrist said. "It's going to be a place of healing and reflection."
As of Feb. 22, the effort had raised $6,900, enough for almost seven of the benches. The goal is to have 1,000 people donate $26 each.
"I don't have a thousand friends, so I need help," Sigrist said. "So far, I'm encouraged. ... The momentum's growing."
Sigrist said he is planning to on talking with different area schools as well as local scout groups.
"It resonates with students," Sigrist said. "Students will feel as if they're doing something very meaningful, very tangible."
Sigrist said he's been in contact with the Newtown Parks and Recreation Department, which has already agreed to accept the gift, he added. Any amount generated above $26,000 will be donated to the Newton Park Gift Fund.
For more information about donating, visit 26benches.com, which will link to a page on the Newton Parks and Recreation Website. Checks can also be mailed to Newtown Parks and Recreation, Newtown Park Gift Fund/ 26benches.com, Attn: Roseann Reggiano, Three Main St., Newtown, CT 06470.
More information about the effort is available at facebook.com/twentysixbenches.