Ocean Springs students craft comfort pillows for Sandy Hook chil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Ocean Springs students craft comfort pillows for Sandy Hook children

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OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

When the students at Sandy Hook Elementary return to their school, they will each receive a gift from Ocean Springs. This week, students in Ocean Springs are working on a special assignment to reach out to the young survivors of this terrible tragedy.

A first grade teacher at Pecan Park Elementary came up with a creative idea to bring comfort to the children of Sandy Hook. It involves the children's hands, their hearts, and a whole lot of love.

They can't be there to hug the children of Sandy Hook Elementary, but the students at Pecan Park Elementary can use their creativity to bring comfort to the 672 survivors of this horrible tragedy.

"I think it's just a way of us healing through the process, as well as letting them know that we're in this with them. We share their fears," said Melissa McIlwain.

McIlwain is the teacher behind the project, called "Kissing Hand Pillows".  She was inspired by the popular children's book "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn.

"The book is about a little raccoon who starts school. He's very nervous. He shares his fears with his mother and she kisses him in the palm of his hand and tells him anytime you feel scared, just touch your face and I will be there kissing you," said McIlwain. "I wanted something that the students could actually hold and squeeze and love on."

Now, every school in the Ocean Springs School District has a role in crafting the pillows. The elementary children start by tracing their hands on colorful fabric. The next step is cutting out heart shapes and gluing them onto each pillow.

The Ocean Springs Upper Elementary students get to stuff the tiny pillows. And the middle school and high school students are sewing them.

"When they return to school, they will have a little cuddly because they've lost friends and they've lost teachers," the library media specialist at Ocean Springs Upper Elementary told a class Tuesday.

For many of the children, all they know is they're making pillows for a school in Connecticut.  But for others, they understand the purpose behind this project.

"A lot of kids and some of the teachers died. It makes me feel sad," said Gracie LeBatard, a second grader at Pecan Park.

"It makes me feel happy, because they're going to feel better and they're going to think about all their friends and they're going to be happy again," said second grader Brayson Hubbard.

"Even if it's just one student that can hold and hug it and feel safe at school, then our goal is accomplished," said McIlwain.

The students are making more than 800 pillows to send to Sandy Hook after Christmas. McIlwain is working with the author of "The Kissing Hand" to send copies of the book to the children. Some of the sixth graders have also written letters to accompany the pillows.

People in the community also donated money, materials and sewing machines to support the project. 

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