Motorists traveling past the Botsford Fire House in Newtown showed their generosity Saturday as firefighters hosted a "Fill the Boot" fundraiser to benefit the families who lost a loved one in the Sandy Hook School shooting. According to fire department officials, the fundraiser brought in about $23,500 that will go directly to the families of the Sandy Hook Schol staff who lost their lives in the shooting.
The fundraiser was the brainchild of Botsford Fire Rescue treasurer Cindy Ciaccia, wife of Chief Wayne Ciaccia.
"Like everybody in town, we all feel so helpless and there's so much we want to do," said Cindy. "There's only so much we can do as far as reaching the families of all the victims."
The money — Cindy says the fire house will match enough funds to bring the total to at least $24,000 in the end — will go directly to the families of staff like Principal Dawn Hochsprung, psychologist Mary Sherlach and the teachers.
"We decided to focus on the heroes — the six adult heroes," she said. "You forget, they have families, and children, grandchildren, sisters, parents. We felt like coming from a firehouse — a hero-type place — we wanted to focus on those six families and directly give it to the families."
"She came up with it one afternoon and we just went with it," said her husband. The department got in touch with town and state officials to use the road for the afternoon.
There were minor traffic delays due to the fundraiser, in which the money is stuffed into fire boots, but folks didn't seem to mind. And most drivers could be seen dropping cash into the boots.
"We had so many people being so generous, and also emotional, driving by," said Cindy. "A lot of tears, a lot of God bless yous. Mutually between us and them."
Local roads have been backed up all week as Newtown has become the focus of worldwide media attention following the Dec. 14 shooting that took the lives of 26 people — 20 students and 6 adults — and as people from near and far have converged on this normally quiet town to show their support.
Donations have grown so abundant that there is a sign off Exit 11 on Interstate 84 directing folks to 3 Simm Lane, which is serving as a main drop-off spot.
"Everybody wins," Cindy said. "Everybody working there, everybody driving by. And hopefully in some ways the families we ultimately reach — we hope it makes something a little easier."
[Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 23. The publication date was changed for layout purposes.]