By Pam Johnson / Zip06.com • 08/12/2021 8:30 AM EST
Dawn Carafeno and members of Moms Demand Action — CT Shoreline hope residents will help children and teens in the crisis-stricken New Haven area by bringing free gifts and / or gift cards and unwrapped monetary donations to the community. group holiday gift drive on Branford Green on Sunday Dec. 12, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Just look for the folks in red shirts and don’t be surprised if you find more than moms at the table, says Dawn, who founded the riverside group as part of the Connecticut Chapter in 2018. Men are also welcome and involved. in the organization.
“I make them shirts that say ‘Enough of a man to be a mom’,” says Dawn, after seeing similar shirts proudly worn at national gatherings. “We’re mom-centric, but we’re not mom-exclusive. We love grandmothers and grandfathers, fathers, aunts, uncles, neighbors, anyone who just wants to go into the trenches with us and try to make this place a better place.
On December 12, the group will have members at collection locations from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on city greens in Branford, Guilford, Madison and East Haven as part of the second annual Moms Demand Action-CT Shoreline Holiday giveaway campaign. . For those who cannot stop, fundraising can be arranged by sending an email to [email protected] In addition, Venmo donations are also accepted (research @ Dawn-Carafeno).
All items collected on December 12 will be donated to CT’s Violence Intervention Program which helps children in the Crisis New Haven area, aged 17 and under.
“Last year we ended up with over $ 600 in cash donations and over 650 gifts to give to these kids who are going through an absolute nightmare,” says Dawn. “They have all lost a family member to gun violence in New Haven County, or have witnessed these atrocities; and sometimes both. We try to bring a bit of cheerfulness and a bit of normalcy, and a bit of kindness, love, wit and light to children who are going through things we can’t even imagine.
It is also hoped that the December 12 fundraising campaign will help raise awareness of the New Haven branch of CT’s violence intervention program; and provide a little red flag on the gun violence unfolding near our coastal hometowns, she said.
“The little ones who have lost their mother, father, brother or cousin, and have seen this happen, it’s happening in our backyard in New Haven. I think a lot of people on our shore think of this as a whole other place, ”says Dawn, adding,“ It’s devastating to me that little children feel unloved, unwanted and scared. When someone gets shot and killed in Hamden or New Haven, it hardly makes the headlines anymore. My heart breaks for them, and then what happens to those left behind, especially the children left behind? “
The support provided by the CT Violence Intervention Program is based on a mix of different evidence-based models, including Cure Violence, headquartered in Chicago, and Operation Cease Fire, which began in Boston, Dawn explains.
“It’s very unique. Many of the workers who work in this program are former offenders from the region they serve. They come in and defuse a situation before it turns into a truly horrific outcome. As they say, they interrupt the transmission of the disease of violence. And this particular arm [in New Haven] is so laser focused on where the problem is, really at ground level. I’m proud to be associated with him, ”says Dawn.
As a national grassroots organization, Moms Demand Action fights for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence, including passing tougher gun laws and working to fill the gaps. that compromise the safety of people. Learn more at momsdemandaction.org. Efforts range from education on topics such as the safe storage of firearms to working for change at the legislative level, with many members, including Dawn, traveling to state capitals to testify.
Dawn says significant federal legislation is needed, not just “state-by-state” actions.
“It seems so crazy that we have these invisible lines that guns don’t respect,” she says.
Start-up of the Shoreline group
Dawn moved to Guilford with her husband, Michael Carafeno, and their young children in 2017. She started Moms Demand Action-CT Shoreline on February 15, 2018, a day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a student with a gun killed 17 people. Two weeks earlier, 15-year-old Ethan Song had been shot and killed in Guilford, Dawn notes. The handgun was misplaced and was accidentally unloaded at a friend’s home.
“I didn’t know his family; I was still new to Guilford, but I knew this upsetting thing had happened in this little coastal town, ”says Dawn.
The day after the Parkland shooting, Dawn’s seven-year-old daughter refused to put on her shoes when dressing for school. Unbeknownst to Dawn, she had learned of the shooting from television reports while dining out with a relative and her five-year-old brother the day before.
“She had these brand new shoes with flashing lights. She wouldn’t put them on. I finally stopped her and said, ‘What’s going on? You have to dress for school, ”Dawn recalls. “And she said, ‘Mum, we have to be really, really small and really, really calm in the bathroom to hide from the guy with the gun. If I wear these shoes to school, he will find us and he will kill me and my friends. ‘
“Something in my brain at that point kind of broke. I just looked at her and thought, ‘She’s a little girl who’s afraid to put on flashing shoes for fear of being shot in school. This is where we are as a country; and I don’t have it, ”she adds. “And so that’s the day I went online to see what I could do … and that’s the day I launched Moms Demand Action for the CT Shoreline.”
Dawn had gone online hoping to find a local group to join, and was surprised she couldn’t find one.
“It was shocking, considering that this whole organization grew out of the Newtown shooting. I just thought it was everywhere, at least in Connecticut, ”said Dawn of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, which killed 28 people, including 20 elementary students.
When Dawn posted notices on Facebook about the group’s creation, she immediately reached out to other area residents who wanted to “do something” in the wake of the Parkland shooting, she said.
“The fact that I started this group immediately after the shooting in Parkland; the wave of people wanting to get involved was huge, ”said Dawn, speaking with The Sound just days after a 15-year-old gunned down four high school students at the school in Oxford, Mich. on the 30th. November.
“These mass school shootings are making the headlines so much and people are wondering what to do, but then it fades away,” says Dawn. “School violence and shootings are horrific and should grab your attention, but they are less than one percent of what happens with gun violence. “
In the years since the group’s inception, thanks to the data, evidence and information provided by the national organization, Dawn has learned much more about gun violence and its many forms. She notes that 67% of gun violence deaths in America are due to suicide, while other frequent acts can be attributed to gun violence, including domestic violence and even accidental shootings by children who get their hands on a woman. firearm, among other incidents.
“These things happen a lot more frequently than mass school shootings, but we focus on mass school shootings because it’s awful,” says Dawn.
Make the change
Since becoming the leader of the Coastal Group, Dawn has participated in numerous vigils and rallies against gun violence. She has traveled to cities like Bridgeport to watch over mothers at the scene of their child’s death. On November 29, Dawn joined a rally outside Madison’s board meeting to protest the potential early return to school of an expelled student who sent gun threat text messages to fire at a student. On December 3, the family were informed that the male student would remain out of school instead for the duration of the expulsion period. Dawn, who is also a family friend of the threatened student, was happy to hear the outcome.
“I feel like we’ve made a difference, and I think we all need to keep doing it,” she says.
While she understands the frustration, more than most, of the continued fallout from gun violence, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s very frustrating to have to repeat yourself over and over again. But I have the impression that there has been a change. I think that as an organization moms demand [Action] showed up, in red shirts, in every corner of this country. We are in all 50 states and people know who we are. Until a few years ago, when we were trying to talk to lawmakers about any kind of gun reform, they weren’t talking to us, ”says Dawn. “And now, especially from Parkland, they’re looking for us.”
Interestingly, Dawn herself has been a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) for 17 years.
“Frankly, I never really liked guns much; it was just a part of my life. I grew up in the Midwest and the South. It was part of who we were, ”says Dawn. “My ex-husband and I were very supportive of the NRA and what we thought they stood for, but I started to walk away from that. I had a few questions about what was going on and some of the actions taken by people claiming to be members of the NRA. “
Dawn also shares that a son from her first marriage, who is 26 and lives in another state, legally owns guns. According to Dawn, one of the most important things to share about Moms Demand Action is that the organization isn’t looking to wipe guns off the face of the earth. What the organization is looking for is accountability and responsibility.
“If you want to own these materials that can and will cause death, you have to have some responsibility,” she says. “You have to store them safely. You have to make sure they are not in the hands of someone who is dangerous … There are steps you can take to temporarily remove the guns from someone who is going through a very difficult time ”, as in situations where a person is at risk for suicide.
“As a society, we can do something to restrict the accessibility of guns to people who shouldn’t have them,” says Dawn.
Moms Demand Action – CT Shoreline Welcomes More Volunteer Members; email [email protected] to find out more.