What began as a place for children to play sports during the winter, turned into a place of healing and comfort recently when the NYA Sports & Fitness Center (NYA) opened their doors for free to the community for over two weeks, to help them after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
The planning started on the evening of Saturday, December 15, 2012, the day after the Sandy Hook tragedy. NYA owner Peter D’Amico met with leaders of youth and sports groups in Newtown. Together they decided they needed to reach out to the community and begin the healing process.
Notices were sent out through these organizations and also via schools, websites and mailings. NYA canceled any regularly scheduled programs to allow for these new activities to take place.
D’Amico said it is estimated that as many as 5,000 people attended on the first day NYA ran the free programs on Monday December 17. The NYA staff made sure the doors stayed open from 9am to 9pm and numerous volunteers from the sports organizations ran the activities.
“There were no structured games, it is the way kids were meant to play, but everything was supervised, older kids helping younger kids and alumni came back too,” said D’Amico.
“The sports groups reached out to restaurants and everyone stepped up,” D”Amico said. There were a tremendous amount of businesses that contributed. See names here in the NYA thank you note: http://www.nyasportsfitness.com/community.html
“The reaction of residents was extremely positive. They were thankful to be here and away from the news and TV,” D’Amico said.
“We are intensely grateful for all the outpouring of support,” said NYA Board Member Kaki Taylor.
The age range of children who attended was kindergarten to high school, and younger toddlers were there too with the parents.
“It was a refuge from the community, no pictures [taken] from car to building, they could relax,” said Taylor.
The media was not permitted to cover this event, in order to give the residents privacy. D’Amico said he was explaining this preference to a woman from a TV crew, and she suddenly started crying and said, “Honestly, I don’t want to be here.”
Taylor said, “We have mixed feelings about the media because we realize that outside towns need to know what is happening.”
“One of the things I felt joy about is seeing the parents watch their children play in a safe environment and they could talk to other parents too,” said D’Amico. “We did not have this in mind when building this facility,” he said, referring to the fact that the facility became a refuge after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Newtown resident Peter D’Amico had a dream to build a facility for children and reach out to the community to provide other services too. That dream came to fruition in 2008 when the NYA Youth Academy (now NYA Sports and Fitness Center) was funded and built by D’Amico on the grounds of Fairfield Hills in Newtown CT. The beautiful new building included large basketball courts, a tennis court, track, an large indoor turf area, a café, a second floor area with state of the art fitness equipment, other exercise rooms for classes, and professional trainers on staff.
Today both adults and children use the facility and classes are offered for seniors too.
Special Events Planned
On Monday, January 7 a special program is planned at NYA, “Soccer Night in Newtown” open only to Newtown residents and members of the Newtown Soccer Club. The event will take place in two sessions, 4-5:30 and 6-7:30. Numerous MLS players and US stars are expected to attend. It is expected that as many as 1,200 people will be there and it could possibly be the largest gathering of soccer stars at one event (other than at All-Star games or MLS Cups).
“Other professional players want to do something too so we will do events throughout the year,” D’Amico said. “We are also developing a program for first responders, with regular exercise and games. It should start at the end of January to the beginning of February 2013. We want to do things for kids in town too, on a long term basis, but we are still working on it,” D’Amico stated.
"NYA Community Commitment & Support" Fundraiser
The NYA Sports & Fitness Center is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization community-centered organization dedicated to the health and general well-being of all Newtown residents. Taylor said they have also formed a fundraising effort named “NYA Community Commitment & Support.” Their goal is: “Donations will be used to expand programming and enlarge the scope of NYA’s special activities and events to meet the needs of the Newtown community as they heal from the recent tragedy.” All donations are tax deductable. See information here: http://www.nyasportsfitness.com/community.html
How To Move Forward After The Sandy Hook Tragedy
D’Amico was asked, “What else can the community do? D’Amico said, “As a citizen and a grandfather of a child, school safety is very important but at the same time you do not want to lock them up. I am not sure if police presence is the answer with small children, but I certainly do not have the answer.”
Taylor said, “Look at the cause, perhaps that is more effective.”
Twenty seven year Newtown resident Dorrie Carolan, also Fitness Manager at NYA, said, “We need to learn more about mental health and drug problems and open up a dialogue about it and bring in experts. It’s a disease that needs to be recognized.” Carolan is also co-president of the “Newtown Parent Connection.” The aim of the organization is to “educate, empower and embrace the community on the prevention of substance abuse, and to embrace families in crisis,” Carolan said.
D’Amico was asked, “What do you think should be done with the Sandy Hook Elementary school? He replied, “It was my impression prior to all this that we needed to close one of the schools due to enrollment, so no matter how you feel, why not make it a memorial park.”
Regarding security, D’Amico said, “We have adequate security. I’ve thought more about it, and have to think about if we have to do more. What is nice is people feel comfortable here and we are providing that.”
Taylor said, “Most important is that we have programs here, a place for people to congregate, healing with doing sports and activities, and that will be essential for the town.”
Taylor also mentioned the “Good Night Call” as residents call it, she said, that Newtown residents receive each night from First Selectman Llodra, that contains updated town information, but ends with the words “Good Night” that have become very comforting to all.
For further information contact NYA Sports & Fitness Center, 4 Primrose Street, Newtown, CT, call 203-426-0088 or see website: http://www.nyasportsfitness.com/