- (Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)
Numerous atheist groups have decided to team together to collect donations for the families of those killed in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"The families that have been hurt did not plan for their child's funeral, no parent does," read the press release of the Atheists Giving Aid donation fund, which was created in collaboration by American Atheists, the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, and We Are Atheism to help collect donations for affected Newtown families.
"This horrific time is difficult enough without having to worry about how they are going to pay to bury their child and afford counseling for themselves and their siblings left behind," the press release continues.
"Now it is your turn to show that there are more of those who love and care for their fellow community members than those who would kill mercilessly," the press release adds.
The group ensures that the money donated to the Atheists Giving Aid fund will go directly to those 20 families for which they have contact information.
The initial donations will be used toward "funeral expenses and counseling for the survivors of the shooting and their families," while all additional funds will go towards helping families of the adults killed in the tragedy, as well as the community to provide counseling for the those affected.
According to the Kansas-based We Are Atheism's Twitter page, the donation group ended its first day of donations on Monday with $11,350.33.
Faith-based groups are also lending a hand to the families affected by Friday's massacre.
The crisis-trained chaplains of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team reportedly arrived in Newtown, Conn., on the day of the shooting to provide support and comfort for those stricken with grief.
"They see us come up as Billy Graham chaplains and they just know we're here to give them love and comfort in the name of Jesus," chaplain coordinator Ginger Sanders told WLTX.com, adding that sometimes "[victims] need a hug, and sometimes we don't need to say anything. Just be there for them."
CNN reports that the Lutheran Church Charities organization, based in Illinois, sent a band of golden retriever "comfort dogs" to Newtown so families may hug and pet the animals, a type of therapy which is believed by some to relieve stress and anxiety.
Several nonreligious groups and individuals are also offering their support.
For example, Chris Johnson, running back for the NFL's Tennessee Titans, wrote the names of the recently deceased students and teachers on his cleats while playing a game against the New York Jets on Monday, Dec. 17.
Johnson says he plans to auction off the shoes and donate the proceeds to the victims' families.
There has also been a reported slew of donations to anti-gun organizations, including the Brady Campaign, a nonprofit which lobbies for stricter gun control legislation, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group for gun control.
"People are desperate to do something to make sure that this does not happen again, a mass shooting in a kindergarten classroom," Sarah Hench, director of development at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told The Huffington Post.
Other notable relief groups providing aid to this small Connecticut community include the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, set up by the United Way of Western Connecticut, the Newtown Memorial Fund and the Red Cross.
Newtown. Conn., is trying to recover after a gunman, who police identify as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, went on a shooting rampage on the morning of Dec. 14, killing his mother, as well as 26 students and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing himself.