Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Memorial for Newtown victims at MTS Centre

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A local funeral director is planning for thousands of people to show up at the MTS Centre today to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Richard Wojcik, funeral director of Wojcik's Funeral Chapel and Crematorium, said on Friday he rented the entire MTS Centre to make sure there is enough room for anybody who wants to come today at 10:30 a.m.

"We're hoping to receive at least 5,000 people there," Wojcik said.

"It may be more, but it may be affected (by) the weather. We didn't want to have a facility where we'd have to turn away people or have them stand. I would just feel awful if we didn't have enough space."

Twenty-six children and school staff were killed on Dec. 14 when a gunman forced his way into the school in Newtown, Conn., and began shooting.

The victims included six-year-old Ana Márquez-Greene, who lived for three years in Winnipeg before her family moved to Newtown last year.

Her family has created a Facebook site called Remembering Ana Márquez-Greene and a message posted on it thanked Wojcik's Funeral Chapel for hosting the service.

Wojcik said he was moved to organize the event because "I'll never forget when I saw the story on TV.

"Being a parent, I had such a heavy heart. I have arranged large funerals before, so I knew I had to do something. And I knew Manitobans would support this."

Wojcik said the Archdiocese of Winnipeg has sent home notices announcing the event with Roman Catholic students in the city.

Wojcik said the MTS Centre's normal $10,000 rental charge has been waived for the community event, but he still has to pay the arena staff.

He said Winnipeg Fire Paramedic chaplain Mark Young will lead the service and attendees will sing Silent Night. "It is because these deaths occurred just before Christmas," Wojcik said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 A1

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