Fund established to help Sandy Hook families

Nearly 20 people crowded into the kitchen of Rob and Deb Accomando's Newtown home on Saturday, cooking for the families who lost children a day before in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Some, like the Accomando's, were parents of children that survived the tragedy.

Rebekah Harriman-Stites' 7-year-old son attended a different elementary school, but wrestled in a league with Jack Pinto, one of the victims. Others were neighbors and friends. As they talked, they realized baking casseroles wasn't enough.

They heard of one father who didn't have a suit to wear to his child's funeral.

Other parents were scrambling to collect enough frequent flyer miles to get relatives from across the country to attend the funerals of grandchildren, nieces and nephews -- and then inexpensive places for them to stay.

The group decided to establish a relief fund called the "My Sandy Hook Family Fund," to provide both immediate and long-term support to the 26 families who lost children and family members in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. Really, anything the family says it needs.

"It is a fluid number. A very ad hoc thing. It keeps growing," said Caryn Kaufman, a publicist by trade who is a colleague of Harriman-Stites, one of the Family Fund organizers.

In its first afternoon, the fund has already raised nearly $11,000. It is now up to $45,000.

Harriman-Stites called it a neighbor-to-neighbor effort.

"We know that we are lucky. We need to help our neighbors," said Harriman-Stites.

It is unbelievable to Harriman-Stites that the night before Jack Pinto died, he was at a wrestling meet with her son who is the same age. Monday, she went to his memorial service.

"We know all these families personally," said Harriman-Stites. "Our kids were in day care together. They're on sports teams together. We go to church together. And everyone is asking: How can we help? The Fund allows everyone with a burning need to "do something" to help take some of the burdens off of these families in their time of incredible pain. This is one way we can direct resources in a meaningful way."

The My Sandy Hook Family Fund is a grassroots response to the death of Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old wrestler in the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association. The fund organizers wanted to find ways to help Jack's family. It soon became apparent that Jack was not the only child they knew. They decided to leverage their individual networks and resources to try to help all the victims' families.

The group has also developed a network of community-based social workers who will work directly with the families to determine their specific needs. Based on this information, additional donations and resources will be sought. Beyond meeting individual needs of the families, the fund will help cover some funeral costs, said Harriman-Stites.

All of the fund's net proceeds will be donated to the victims' families, according to organizers. To make a donation, visit: