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Exchange Club donates 'Freedom Shrine' to Saxe

The Exchange Club of New Canaan donated a "Freedom Shrine" to Saxe Middle School and was aided by four eighth-grade student representatives.

Nominated by their teachers to represent their social studies classes, Sophie Price, Chase Fichtner, Emma St. Raymond and Cristobal Toro met with Principal Greg Macedo, New Canaan Public Schools Facilities Director Bob Willoughby and Exchange Club President Randall Dalia.

After weighing the pros and cons of three locations, the students unanimously chose the wall across from the auditorium entrance.

The "Freedom Shrine" is a project of the Exchange Club of New Canaan and gift to Saxe Middle School. As part of their mission to focus on Americanism, Exchange Club volunteers have installed shrines at New Canaan's three public elementary schools. After the installation of the Shrine at Saxe, club volunteers plan to complete their mission with one installed at New Canaan High School within the next two years.

According to the Exchange Club's national website, "The Freedom Shrine is an impressive display of a collection of historic document replicas that serves to remind all of us of the great efforts that have been taken to ensure our freedom. The Freedom Shrine originated with the Freedom Train that toured the nation in 1947 carrying an exhibit of historic documents. It serves as an educational tool in schools, and as a motivational display in public arenas."

The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech are included among 30 documents on display. An engraved plaque reading "Presented to Saxe Middle School by the New Canaan Chapter of the National Exchange Club April 2014" is mounted among the documents.

Willoughby's staff prepared the 28 feet of wall space in early April and during spring vacation a team of Exchange Club volunteers arrived at Saxe. Armed with drills, screwdrivers and levels, the team installed the plaques within the two sections of the black-framed, birchwood-backed homage to the nation's history.

On April 22, a special dedication ceremony took place in the main lobby. Macedo opened the ceremony with a welcome and introductions followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a dedication speech by Dalia. The four eighth-grade student representatives offered their comments to the assembled group that included Exchange Club members and Saxe administrators. Mary Kolek, the superintendent of schools, shared her final thoughts to close the ceremony.

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