The Get With Morgan Fogarty: Sandy Hook Parent Turns to Charlotte for Help

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by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Michele Gay mingled with ease in SouthPark Thursday.  The only visible sign of the horrific loss she suffered less than two years ago is the bracelet she wears with the name "Josephine" spelled out in beads.  Josephine is her daughter, one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting.  Joey, as she was called, was 7 years old. 

Gay says, "I kind of had a conversation with myself early on and I made a decision that the only way I was gonna be able to live with this pain for the rest of my life was to be able to put it to work."  So a little more than a year ago, Gay launched Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative.  Her goal is to bring communities together to make schools safer.  The gun control debate is not part of Gay's efforts.  "There are many reasons for that, but most practically, the issue of school safety is something we can address right now, and it's something that's not divisive, it's not political," she says. 
 
Gay urges schools to make improvements including installing classroom doors that can be locked from the inside, landscape and hardscape that protect a school's front door, and an interior door that controls access to student areas.
 
She is in Charlotte to name three local leaders to the Safe and Sound Advisory Board, including the Charlotte region's American Red Cross CEO Angela Broome,  Chief Jon Hannan of the Charlotte Fire Department, and CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe. Gay says, "There's interest and momentum here for making the community as safe as possible." 
 
Gay's daughter is at the center of the work she does. She wants meaningful change in Joey's honor.  Joey had autism and wasn't able to speak.  Gay says, "She always turned difficult circumstances into love, laughter and light." 
 
Friday morning, Gay will speak to about 300 people at Charlotte's Hood Hargett Breakfast Club.  To learn more about Safe and Sound, go to http://www.safeandsoundschools.org/
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