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Time changed for Saturday dedication of Dylan's playground

Updated 3:54 pm, Friday, June 14, 2013
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Dedication of the new playground at Long Lots Elementary School has been changed from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday by planners of the ceremony.

The Hyde Lane playground honors Dylan Hockley, one of 20 first-graders killed along with six educators last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The Long Lots site is the fourth of 26 playgrounds that will be built in the tri-state area to honor the 26 shooting victims -- a program organized by the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association. Long Lots was chosen to honor Hockley because the boy's family has relatives in Westport.

The $100,000 Long Lots project benefitted from donations of time and equipment from members of Hockley's family, Westport emergency personnel, teachers, PTA members, and area companies including A.J. Penna Construction Co., Kowalsky Brothers Construction Co., and Gault Energy.

The Long Lots playground project is part of a larger "pay it forward" movement centered around the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, students in Mississippi learned about the efforts of Elizabeth, N.J., firefighters who had assisted the New York City Fire Department in responding to the attacks. The students sent letters of thanks to the Elizabeth Fire Department, and these letters meant a great deal to the unit, said Capt. Bill Lavin.

Four years later, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi area, and Lavin learned that 80 percent of the students who had sent those earlier letters had lost their homes and their school. Lavin visited the decimated school, and his 5,000-member organization decided that the best way to bolster the spirits of those children was to build them a new playground.

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the coast of New Jersey last fall, some of those same students reached out again. They arranged to donate Christmas gifts for the children of families affected by the hurricane.

About the same time as the Christmas gifts started coming in to his organization, the Newtown shooting happened. Lavin recognized another opportunity to "pay it forward," and the new Long Lots playground is part of that effort.