DARIEN — The town of Darien will team up with the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement next Friday to raise funds for the organization.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has proclaimed Aug. 31 as Darien Chooses Love Day in honor of the movement named after Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

“As a mother of five children, I can’t imagine what Scarlett (Lewis) and her family have had to endure,” Stevenson said in a statement. “What I do know is that helping our children strengthen their social and emotional resilience will be proven to be one of the most powerful ways to ensure we have a society of healthy, compassionate and empathetic people.”

The Choose Love organization is working with Darien Summer Nights for the special concert fundraiser. The concert will include The Spadtastics, as well as live music by Free Flow and special guest Doug Allen. There will also be a photo booth, face painting and food trucks.

“It’s going to be a wonderful day filled with fun and games for kids,” said Lewis, a Darien native and founder of the Choose Love organization. The movement’s mission is to ensure every child has access to social and emotional learning.

“I knew that tragedy was preventable,” Lewis said. “I did some research on what we could do to prevent what has now become our new normal where students are killing students in school.”

The solution she found was social and emotional learning, she said. This involves teaching kids life skills — how to get along with one another, how to manage their emotions, as well as skills and tools for resilience for the challenges that will occur in their lives.

“School shooters, a lot of our imprisoned youth and adults, and others who may have addiction issues lack social and emotional intelligence,” she said.

Lewis said there is no social and emotional intelligence gene — these skills, tools and attitudes must be learned.

“It’s vitally important that we teach our kids these things,” she said.

However, Lewis said some of the programs in schools currently aren’t effective. According to National Center of Education statistics, bullying has increased by 21 percent since it started being tracked in 2003, she said. There has also been an increase in suicides around the country.

The Choose Love Movement provides a free program to help teach social and emotional intelligence — the Choose Love Enrichment Program — a pre-K to 12th-grade curriculum that teaches children how to have healthy and positive relationships and emotional management among other things.

The program is available on jesselewischooselove.org and educators can access it at no cost. The program was also recently adopted by New Hampshire’s statewide school safety initiative.

“They’re using our program as the backbone for their statewide school safety plan,” Lewis said.

Proceeds from the fundraiser and concert will help fund the program. In addition to the fundraiser, over 20 local shops have chosen to donate a percentage of their proceeds on Aug. 31 to the movement.

Lewis said Darien is a perfect example of a community rallying around something that could potentially help the world.

“I really owe the success to the community in Darien,” she said. “The fact that they have honored Jesse in this way is really a huge celebration of Darien and their example of coming together as a community.”


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