HOWLAND - About 20 local people walked 27 minutes Friday morning - one for each of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims - around Howland Township Park as part of the worldwide "Walk 27" event.
Teresa Rufo, an early childhood intervention major at Walsh University, set up the Howland event after seeing a Facebook page promoting the walk worldwide.
"I work with kids on an everyday basis," Rufo said, "This just breaks my heart."
Tribune Chronicle / Margaret Thompson
Teresa Rufo, an education major at Walsh University, wipes away a tear Friday before the start of a walk in honor of the students and teachers who died in the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Rufo set up the walk that took place in Howland Township Park.
The walkers each donated money to be sent to the Newtown families.
"I wanted to raise more than I could on my own," Rufo said.
Before beginning their walk, the group gathered in front of the Tigertown playground where Rufo, holding back tears, said a prayer for the families and helped release green and white balloons. Many of the walkers also were dressed in green and white, the school colors of Sandy Hook Elementary, where the shootings occurred.
Gary Brienza, of Niles, who came to walk remembers when he found out about the shootings.
"I didn't realize how many people were killed until I heard it later," Brienza said.
After finding out about the walk from Facebook, he decided to come and show support for the family.
Mindy Higgins also participated in the walk. She is a mother of four, all younger than 12, from Howland.
"Every time I look at my 7-year-old I just picture that and just feel sad for those parents," Higgins said.
"Seeing children around that age, it hit me close, I can't imagine the loss," said Mark Paul, of Howland.
Paul explained while walking that he has a 3-year-old godson.
"The least I could do," Paul said, "was wake up early and walk in the cold."
Twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook were shot and killed Dec. 14 when Adam Lanza entered the school with a semi-automatic rifle and several other guns and fired into the classrooms. Included in the death count is Lanza's mother, who he shot in her Newtown home. After his shooting spree Lanza shot and killed himself.
Lenette Economos, of Warren, is Rufo's mother. She said Rufo took it pretty hard when she found out the news and was determined to do more than just donate money.
Economos said she lives near an elementary school and can see the kids eating in the cafeteria. To imagine what happened at Sandy Hook brought the tragedy home for her.
According to Rufo's sister, Marcella Economos, North Commons Starbucks donated pastries for the walkers and Sam's Club donated juice boxes and granola bars.
"Walk 27" was started by a Florida man hoping to bring the nation together to support the families affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting last week. More than 18,000 people planned to participate, according to the event's official Facebook page: Worldwide Walk 27 on 12/21/12.
On the page were comments from people walking in Australia, Germany, Mexico, and across the United States. Groups and individuals began walking at 9:30 a.m. EST and concluded their journeys by blowing bubbles or releasing balloons.
Funerals for the victims began Monday and have continued through the week.