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Former New Canaan Kids Give Big To Sandy Victims

Claire Tenney, right, of Stamford, stands with a pair of women from Staten Island, N.Y. whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. One of them is holding a flashlight that Claire gave them. Photo Credit: Vaschelle Andre´
A Staten Island, N.Y. woman holds one of the flashlights the Tenney family of Stamford gave to her on Thanksgiving. Photo Credit: Vaschelle Andre´
Twins Curtis and Claire Tenney, 9, at their birthday party at the Outback Teen Center in New Canaan. The siblings collected money for families affected by Hurricane Sandy and then distributed food, clothing and flashlights on Thanksgiving Day. Photo Credit: Kate McBride Tenney
Some of the flashlights with messages of support written by kids from Stamford and New Canaan that were distributed to families in New York affected by Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Kate McBride Tenney

STAMFORD, Conn.  – Twins Claire and Curtis Tenney, Stamford residents who used to live in New Canaan, could be forgiven if they only thought about having fun on their 9th birthday last Sunday - or if had they chosen to enjoy a warm Thanksgiving dinner at home.

Instead, the kids and their family spent their holiday giving turkey sandwiches and flashlights to families in New York affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The Tenney kids, along with their older siblings and their mom, Kate McBride Tenney, traveled to New York on Thanksgiving Day, armed with food, clothing and flashlights with the aim of spreading a little hope to people in Staten Island and a community in Queens commonly known as the Rockaways. 

The trip came about when Kate Tenney suggested they should do something nice for people going through a bad time.

“It felt really good that we could help people that (went through) lots of danger from the storm,” Curtis said. “I saw that everyone was so touched when we gave them the flashlights and sandwiches.”

Curtis said he enjoyed the day helping others, as well as playing soccer with kids who live in the Rockaways.

The flashlights came with batteries and special messages from kids in New Canaan and Stamford. Friends attending Curtis and Claire’s birthday party Nov. 18 at Outback Teen Center attached notes to the 60 or so flashlights, offering strangers some kind words of support. The Tenneys lived in New Canaan for years before moving to North Stamford.

Kate Tenney said it’s the same idea as a “message in a bottle,” where a bottle is tossed into the ocean, containing a note that will be picked up by someone the sender has never known.

“They said, ‘Thank you,’ and ‘Wow, I’m so touched,’ ” Claire Tenney recalled. “I could tell they were touched by that. It made me feel good and very warm inside.”

Before the trip, the kids also collected money to assist Sandy victims in lieu of presents. Kate Tenney said the effort collected more than $800, which will be donated to the Afya Foundation, a charitable group working to assist victims of Sandy. 

Kate Tenney said she wanted to teach her kids about social responsibility and thought it might be superfluous to have Claire and Curtis just get more toys.

“They decided, yes, this is what they wanted to do,” Kate Tenney said.

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