Park City Newtown Respite Project Update

“The whole family felt a sense of healing and connection.”

When 26 children and educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, local Kate Sullivan couldn’t believe that a tragedy like this occurred near her home town. She decided she needed to help the families in some way and founded the Park City Newtown Respite Project, under the umbrella of Park City Community Foundation. The project concludes this January. We asked Kate a few questions about her work. Click here to read the interview.

Q: How did the idea of the respite program start? A: Right after I heard the news from Newtown, I realized I had gone to high school with a woman whose family had been affected. I had to do something. I reached out to Mike Goar (then General Manager of Canyons Resort) and asked if he would be willing to provide lodging to families. He said yes, and I realized I could ask others too.

Q: What was your vision for the respite program? A: I hoped that families could come to Park City, relax, and enjoy the outdoors. I wanted them to find a peaceful place to heal in our beautiful resort town. I wanted them to enjoy being outside, with their families, and for them to do fun activities.

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Q: How many families have come? A: We’ve had ten families visit Park City, and we have three more coming for the Sundance Film Festival. There is a film about the tragedy in the festival this year; it features three families who have founded an organization to fight for gun control.

Q: What has been the feedback from the families? A: They’ve all had an incredible time out here. For many of them, it had never occurred to them to come out west. One mother, in particular, shared a story with me. She recorded a video of her son on the zip line at the Utah Olympic Park.

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In the recording, there is a blue light following her son down the zip line. She knows that that is her other son, the one that was killed at Sandy Hook. That experience has been incredible for the family. The whole family felt a sense of healing and connection.

Q: When I hear about a tragedy like Sandy Hook, I feel powerless. How did you go from a feeling of sadness to action? A: When I got my first “yes” from Mike Goar, I thought – if he is willing, others will be too.

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I told my friend my idea and she told me to speak it aloud and to write it down. When I found Park City Community Foundation, everything fell into place. I had backing, and people trusted me and made donations.

Q: Anything else we should know? A: I was surprised to find that the sponsors didn’t want recognition – they just wanted to do something good for these families. And I’d like to share some comments from the families – they say it best!

“I cannot thank you and the community enough for all of your efforts to send our family to Utah. We have not taken any vacations since losing our daughter, and when this opportunity was presented to us, we just had a feeling it would be good for us. Vacationing while brokenhearted is not easy, but we knew we could make this a great week for our boys. And that’s exactly what it was! They were smiling, laughing, and enjoying every single minute of being in Utah – between the pool, fly fishing, the alpine slides, walking down Main Street, and taking a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, they were active and happy.”

“We can’t begin to thank you and your community for your generous, thoughtful, and most importantly, very restful and restoring gift of time in Park City. This was a very important trip for my son and I. He still struggles with his grief and loss, and he and I were able to spend some very important time together. Having his friend there was also beneficial. Thank you so much from all of us.”

To learn more about the documentary, please visit

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