Memorial Fund to keep memories of heroic principal alive
It has been just a little over three weeks since a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and open fire, killing 20 children and six adults. Of those killed was Dawn (Lafferty) Hochsprung, formerly of Towanda.
Hochsprung, at the time of the massacre, was serving as the school's principal, and has been dubbed a hero, having lost her life as she confronted the gunman upon his entrance into the school, and attempted to thwart him. Hochsprung was one of the six adults fatally wounded by the gunman.
Because of Hochsprung's heroism, and her life of dedication to educating students, her family has recently set up a memorial fund in her honor. The funds raised through this effort will benefit students from her high school in Naugatuck, Connecticut who are planning to pursue a career in education.
The fund was established by Hochsprung's husband George, and her daughters Erica Lafferty and Cristina (Lafferty) Hassinger. According to Vicki (Lubold) Schmidt, Hochsprung's childhood and lifelong friend, the family set up the fund to keep Hochsprung's memory alive.
In an interview with Schmidt on Friday, she talked about the Memorial Fund, and described her recent travels to Connecticut in which she attended services for her friend.
Schmidt grew up with Hochsprung, and the two attended Towanda Elementary School together until the family relocated to Connecticut.
Schmidt and Hochsprung remained friends following the move, and shared many visits with each other.
On Dec. 18, Schmidt headed to Connecticut with her husband Kurt and her sons Matt and Joe. Upon her arrival on Dec. 19, Schmidt met up with Hochsprung's family and would attend the wake in Woodbury, Connecticut, a town located 15 minutes from Newtown.
Schmidt described the services for Hochsprung as surreal.
"When we arrived for the services there were thousands of people who were lined up down the street and around the corner," said Schmidt. "It was amazing," she added.
Schmidt also spoke of the media presence at Hochsprung's services. But mostly Schmidt talked of the strength of Hochsprung's family, and the bravery that was exhibited by her longtime friend on Dec. 14.
"They're incredibly strong," Schmidt said of Hochsprung's family.
Schmidt's mother, Faye Lubold of Towanda, had already been in contact with Hochsprung's mother, Geegee Lafferty. According to Schmidt, Hochspring's mother was doing well in light of the tragedy. Now living in New York, Hochsprung was buried nearby GeeGee Lafferty's home, with services held there as well.
And the family, Schmidt noted, understands that Hochsprung's attempts to thwart the killer ultimately resulted in her own demise. But, Schmidt said, Hochsprung would not have dealt with this in any other way.
"Even if she was small in stature," said Schmidt, "she would come out to defend anyone who needed help." Schmidt added that Hochsprung would even defend her in fifth grade if someone was giving her a hard time.
"She wouldn't be the type to hide and do nothing," Schmidt added. "I'm sure her only thought was to save those kids," Schmidt continued, "and in spite of all the grieving and sadness, I am really fortunate that I had her in my life."
As for the Memorial Fund, Schmidt fully agrees that this will help keep Hochsprung's memory alive.
Individuals can contribute to the fund by visiting www.dawnhochsprungmemorialfund.com/. In addition to donating to the fund, individuals can also support it through the purchase of "What Would Dawn Do?", or W.W.D.D. bracelets.
The bracelets, for a cost of $4, will also benefit the scholarship fund. And the message - "What Would Dawn Do?" - is clear.
Dawn would continue to educate children, and the Dawn Hochsprung Memorial Fund will do just that.