You probably know Kristen Hewitt from her sideline reporting and television work for the Miami Heat and Fox Sports Sun, but for the purpose of this article, think of her as just a mom. A concerned mom.
Like the rest of us, Kristen couldn't believe what she was seeing unfold at Stoneman Douglas High School this past Valentine's Day: Seventeen lives lost and countless lives changed forever in the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012. Right away, she wondered what she could do.
The answer came to her a couple of days later. Where she and her friend Susie Gilden have taken the idea in such a short amount of time is pretty remarkable.
As Hewitt scanned Facebook in the days after the tragedy, she came across an article about a teacher who hands out lollipops to students during lockdown drills to help take their minds off the drill and reward them for getting through it. Right away, she knew that was it because she does the same thing with her two young daughters on road trips and airplanes. Soon after, Lollipops for Lockdowns was formed.
In the words of Hewitt, the cause is just a little thing she felt could be done quickly and provide a bit of sanity for everyone involved with preparing for what was unthinkable not too long ago.
“As parents, our hearts break every time our kids come home and tell us about a lockdown drill, and Lollipops for Lockdown is one small thing we can do to make it easier on not only our children but the teachers who are keeping them safe,” said Hewitt. “We wish we lived in a world where children didn’t have to participate in these drills but for now, it’s a way of life — let’s do something small to comfort our little ones.”
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After speaking to their children's principal, Hewitt and Gilden set a goal of collecting 115,000 lollipops to distribute to every elementary school in Broward County. In a matter of days, those 115,000 lollipops had been donated, by everyone from BJ's to Publix to random donors who shipped them from Amazon. From cold calls, to walking into stores and speaking to management, to using some of the connections she's made over the years working for the Miami Heat, Hewitt has found people more than happy to make a difference, even if it's as small as a lollipop that might bring a smile to a child being asked to practice a drill that could one day save their life.
“The support that Lockdown for Lollipops has received from national retailers, BJ’s Wholesale, Publix, and Trader Joe’s really shows their dedication to the local communities,” said Susie Gilden, co-founder of Lollipops for Lockdown. With their Broward goals conquered, Hewitt and Gilden have set their sights on handing out lollipops to schools in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County, then eventually even more.
"When we finished with Broward County we still had around 30,000 lollipops remaining. So I’ve contacted the Miami-Dade County School Board to see if they will accept donations for all elementary schools in Dade County," Hewitt says. "We would like to continue and bring this sweet movement to Dade and Palm Beach Counties, and hopefully inspire other communities across the country to do the same."
In addition to brand partnerships, Lollipops for Lockdown donations can be made by individuals through the group’s Amazon Wishlist. People who would like to start their own Lollipops for Lockdown movement in their communities can find all the tools needed on Lollipops for Lockdown’s Facebook page. So far, Lollipops for Lockdown movements have started in New York City, Atlanta, and Palm Beach.