Lewiston First Responders Receive Hope from Newtown
The room at Baxter Brewing Company in Lewiston, Maine got quiet as Diane Sarna, President of Hearts of Hope Newtown, stood to read a letter from the Newtown Ambulance and Police Departments. “Our hearts were broken when we learned of the tragic events in your community,” Diane read to the dozens of Lewiston first responders gathered in the pub. The letter also contained a gift: a patch from the ambulance volunteers, “as a reminder that Newtown is standing with you and our thoughts are with all of you.”
On October 25, 2023, 18 people in the tight-knit community of Lewiston, Maine were killed in a terrible mass shooting event. As the entire country mourned with Lewiston, community members in Newtown, Connecticut felt a particular type of heartbreak: Newtown knows the unfathomable grief of senseless violence all too well. Hearts of Hope Newtown immediately reached out to express their support.
This Monday, December 18, the efforts of that first connection came together in a powerful event hosted at Baxter Brewing Company in Lewiston, Maine. As flash flood warnings blared through the torrential downpour on Sunday and Monday, the Hearts of Hope Newtown team braved the weather to drive up from Connecticut to Maine. They brought a delivery of hundreds of hand-painted hearts from FL, NC, NJ, AZ, PA, NY, CT, and Washington, DC.
But it wasn’t only hearts that the Newtown team delivered to first responders in Lewiston. Hearts of Hope reached out to their community first responders in Newtown, who contributed their own letters, gifts, and mementos in solidarity with the Lewiston first responders. They are always first on the scene, and first to witness violence and tragedy.
Alongside honoring the sacrifices first responders make for their communities, the event in Lewiston was a cause for hope. From noon until close, Baxter Brewing Company invited the Lewiston-Auburn community to come celebrate the work of their first responders. The Teamsters Local Union No. 340 donated $3,000 so that all first responders who came to pick up their hearts could have a warm meal.
“I often think to myself what more I could be doing other than handing out hearts,” Diane Sarna said as she reflected on the event. “Yet I keep returning to that one-on-one connection made through such a small interaction of passing a heart. A simple, universal symbol of Hope, Love, and Kindness.”
One firefighter asked for extra hearts to bring back to his station. One first responder said how much meaning the letters from Newtown brought to the event. Another firefighter received the perfect heart—decorated with a yellow bee to match his beloved dog’s collar. A responder at the local ambulance company shared her story of rushing to the shooting scene in the wheelchair van, when none of the ambulances were left.
Hearts of Hope is honored to create an event like this where first responders could share their stories, come together, and feel the support of their communities. As we begin to celebrate the holidays with our friends and families, we are reminded that you never know what others are going through. But we are also reminded that even in the wake of the most senseless pain, when you come together in kindness, there is hope.
We hope you will enjoy some more photos from this powerful event in Lewiston below: