As we approach the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where on Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults lost their lives, Eyewitness News will share a little about each person's life and how their families are honoring their legacies.
Daniel Barden was a little brother, freeze tag enthusiast and all around happy little boy. His death left a hole in his tight-knit family, one they're still struggling to fill.
To cope, the Bardens have turned to charity and advocacy. Daniel's parents invited Eyewitness News reporter Kim Lucey into their home to share their story.
Driving through the community he and his family still call home, Daniel's father Mark Barden shared his memories of his youngest son, Daniel.
"We still can't believe our little boy is gone, forever," he said.
Daniel was a rough and tough 7-year-old, who had his two front teeth knocked out playing soccer. He loved to play freeze tag and foozeball with his brother and sister. He shared his kindness with those who needed a friend.
"It's still so unreal to think that any of this happened," said Daniel's mother, Jackie Barden.
Mark and Jackie Barden said they don't know if the reality of that day will ever actually sink in.
"It's tough, this is tough, it's a tough time of the year. Summer was tough though, too," Jackie Barden said. "I guess everything's tough."
After losing Daniel inside Sandy Hook Elementary, the Bardens took their pain public and shared their grief with the country in the hope that it will inspire others to act.
"You go back to our little Daniel in his classroom seeing someone who was isolated, sitting alone, wanting to have a dialogue with that person, say 'are you OK?'" Mark Barden said. "And then taking that to the community level where folks need to talk to each other to stay close as a community."
Part of that action has led them to advocacy by fighting for stricter gun laws in Connecticut, and in Washington, DC. The family, including their children James and Natalie, met with United States senators, shared their story, and asked for their votes.
After the federal background check amendment was defeated in the Senate, Mark Barden introduced President Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden. He told the world though their hearts were broken, their spirit was not.
"It was just from the heart, you know?" he said. "That's our message. That we're disappointed but not defeated, and we continue to feel that way."
Daniel's spirit still shines through in the postings on the Facebook page created in his honor, What Would Daniel Do?
"Our niece Jackie puts up a story of inspiration taken right out of Daniel, from his life, and people will respond to that and say 'I'm changing the way I'm reacting to people, I'm more patient, I'm looking at things differently now,'" Mark Barden said. "They post stories about that and other people get inspired by those stories, so it's just becoming this big fabric of positive energy and love and kindness."
The Bardens said they hope people around the world will feel like they knew Daniel themselves, and plan to turn that page concept into a foundation.
As we get closer to the anniversary of the terrible day they lost their son, Jackie and Mark Barden hope instead of coming to Newtown, people will do something kind near their own home.
"Look within your own community and maybe see how you can help each other. We've gotten so much support over the year," Jackie Barden said. "It would be nice for people to maybe reach out within the community and do some type of service."
Daniel was known for his kindness, patience, compassion and that's what he would do.
His family said they would love if you shared an act of kindness in his name over the next month.
If you want to make a donation, they request it go to the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization aiming to turn tragedy into transformation.
To donate to Sandy Hook Promise, click here or call Eyewitness News at 1-866-539-9372 for a mailing address.
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