Father of Sandy Hook Victim Shares Message of Triumph over Evil
Ian Hockley, father of Dylan Hockley who was tragically killed in the Sandy Hook shooting nearly six years ago, came to Sacred Heart University to share his inspiring story and foundation’s work.
Hundreds of students crowded into the UC Auditorium in late September to hear Hockley present his lecture, “The Butterfly Effect.” The event was presented by the Human Journey Colloquia Series and the Department of Catholic Studies. Hockley quickly brought his audience to the morning of December 14, 2012, the day the shooting took place. He explained how he was at work when he heard his sons’ elementary school on lockdown, a term he had never heard before. As the news started delivering the tragic details of what unfolded during the morning hours at the suburban school, he found himself being driven home by his manager. That afternoon Hockley found out his youngest son, Dylan, had not made it out of the school. “I was numb with shock,” he said.
Hockley explained that just two days after the shooting, donations started pouring in. His family decided to opened a bank account and dedicate the funds to children with special needs. Dylan was diagnosed with autism at age 3, and the family wanted to help other children just like him. The memorial fund eventually became Dylan’s Wings of Change. The foundation continues to help children with autism and related conditions “reach their full potential,” Hockley said. The nonprofit’s Wingman leadership programs can be found in schools, dance studios, sports clubs and more, and all promote compassion, empathy and inclusion.
The Wingman program works by training youth. Whether the program is in a school, dance studio or sports club, a few students are selected for training. Those trained individuals then go on to teach and conduct activities with their peers. They lead and allow for an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and accepted. That is the hope, Hockley said. There is no fixed curriculum as every school is different. Adults or “champions” are there to assist when the youth need some guidance.
“Kids are teaching kids,” Hockley said. “Students have the voice.”
Dylan’s Wings of Change raises money so the schools or studios don’t have to pay for the Wingman program. The program is in 20 schools across the state and dozens of dance studios across the country.
“Dylan’s essence was happiness,” Hockley said. He mentioned the many things his son loved including the color purple, garlic bread and the moon. With the challenges he faced, he realized he was left out of things, but all he needed was some extra help, Hockley said. “That’s the purpose for the program—all of us need a wingman at some time.”
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