Newtown, CT: by Mark Barden, Sandy Hook Promise.

Anyone who knew my son Daniel will tell you he was always the first to reach out to others.

If Daniel saw someone sitting alone at school – even someone he didn’t know – he’d trot over with his trademark pep to sit with them. He didn’t worry about having an icebreaker or coming up with common interests. He’d just say, “Hello.”

Combating social isolation among young people really can be as easy as saying hello – and, as we’ve learned at Sandy Hook Promise, can prevent someone from reaching the point of picking up a weapon to hurt themselves or others. That’s why I hope you’ll help me honor Daniel’s kind, compassionate heart by forwarding this email or following the link below to learn how your local school or youth organization can get involved in Start With Hello Week, launching February 8-12.

Click here now to learn more about Start With Hello Week and how you or someone you know can help make our schools and communities more inclusive and connected.

Social isolation is a growing epidemic in our schools – and a worrying one. Extreme feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior – and one study reports that chronic loneliness increases the risk of an early death by 14%.

And as we all know, young people are particularly vulnerable, as those excluded or ignored often become victims of bullying, violence and depression. We all hope that won’t lead to them actually hurting themselves or others, but we can’t ignore that possibility – in fact, we must work proactively and together to prevent it. And we can – by just starting with hello.

Sandy Hook Promise’s no-cost Start With Hello program is designed to teach students in grades 2-12 how to reach out and include those who might feel left out. It’s easy to implement in classroom or assembly settings, takes 50 minutes or less, and includes post-training activities that can be rolled out throughout the year. Student ambassadors can even start “kindness clubs” to create an authentic and lasting culture of inclusion. I can’t think of anything that would honor my sweet little Daniel more.

Please click here to register your school or youth organization for Start With Hello Week, February 8-12.

Don’t work at a school or youth organization? I bet you know someone who does – just forward this email to at least one school or youth-serving group and ask them to participate in Start With Hello Week.

I really do believe, with everything in me, that with more Daniel Bardens in the world – reaching out to others, offering a friendly word or even an encouraging smile – we can change our country. We will save lives.

Thank you for supporting Sandy Hook Promise and our family’s daily pledge to do what Daniel would do. We’re so grateful.

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Sandy Hook Promise mission is to Prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child. The Sandy Promise: “I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities “.