WASHINGTON -- They will prepare meals at a soup kitchen, sort clothing at a domestic violence shelter, clean playrooms at a safe house for victims of violence, organize books at an elementary school and assist with filing at a high school.
Hundreds are descending here today to perform acts of kindness in the D.C. region, to hear stories of resilience, and to remember 20 beautiful children and six dedicated educators who lost their lives to gun violence a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Their visit culminates with a vigil Thursday at Washington National Cathedral, expected to be so wrought with sadness that organizers ordered cases of tissues.
Townspeople have asked media to stay away from Newtown on Saturday, the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, and many are obliging.
Newtown Action Alliance organized the vigil at the National Cathedral, a sacred space where people of all faiths have been expressing their deepest sorrows for a century, and where Nelson Mandela will be memorialized today.
"My town has suffered a tragic loss ... but one thing that became very, very clear to us is that this is not a Newtown problem; it's a nationwide problem," said Dave Ackert, chairman of Newtown Action Alliance.
The program is about "remembrance, resolve, hope and inspiration," not about politics or public policy, Mr. Ackert said.
Musical artist Carole King will perform and legislative leaders will speak, but the focus will be on people, including children, affected by gun violence. They will speak from their hearts, Mr. Ackert said.
"I want people to see these people's faces and remember the tears and hear their voices cry out. We want to wake people up and we want people to honor those lost with action," he said. "Action can be an act of kindness to make the world a more loving and compassionate place, or it can be at the polls to vote for somebody who stands up for change.
"Any action that can make our communities safer and more compassionate places to raise children is what we're after."
The group has invited victims of gun violence to come from around the country, and is seeking donations to help pay their travel expenses. They set a target of $26,000 -- that's $1,000 for every Sandy Hook victim.
As of Tuesday evening they had raised about $5,000 through www.rally.org/vigil.
The website also asks people to upload photos of victims of gun violence, which will be projected on screens inside the cathedral during the vigil. It begins at 3:40 p.m. Thursday. A live stream will be available here: www.newtownfoundation.org/vigil.Guns project
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.