New York Yankees treat Newtown residents to a game

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(CNN) — The people of Newtown, Connecticut, no longer want their sense of community to revolve around grief.

So about 4,000 of them took in a New York Yankees game Sunday, courtesy of the team.

Before the game began, the names of the 26 victims were displayed on the screen above center field. Shortly after, the Newtown Youth Voices, a chorus of 26 Newtown students, sang the national anthem. The Sandy Hook Fire Department and Newtown Police Department provided the color guard.

“Having reasons to come together as a community in celebration, for moments of enjoyment, is very important to us,” said Pat Llodra, first selectman for Newtown. “What happened to us is something that will never be forgotten but we’re learning to integrate it into who we are.”

On December 14, Adam Lanza, 20, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School with his mother’s semiautomatic AR-15 rifle and started shooting. He killed 26 people there, 20 of them children.

It wasn’t the first time the Yankees have honored the people of Newtown; on April 1, they joined the Boston Red Sox to dedicate their Opening Day game to the victims and first responders of the shooting. Sunday’s game was intended to unite the broader community.

“There’s still a lot of struggles that this town is going through, and we do whatever we can to give them hope and to be there for them,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We can’t forget that we need to … continue to reach out to the families.”

For Newtown Youth Voices member Ethan Cox, 13, Sunday’s game was a chance to perform at a venue much larger than ones he’s accustomed to.

The group formed in January to record “Beautiful Town,” a song about loss and hope in the wake of December’s shooting. The song written by two Newtown music teachers has spread nationwide, but the group has primarily stuck to performing at local venues.

“It was all leading up to something pretty great, and a once-in-a-lifetime thing that a lot of people won’t experience,” Cox said.

By Michael Tabb

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