NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBS Connecticut/AP) – Parents of students who lost their lives in the now-infamous shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School are trying to “turn tragedy into triumph” through a grassroots initiative that promotes both fundraising and physical fitness.

The campaign seeks to honor 7-year-old Chase Kowalski, one of those who lost his life when gunman Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of Dec. 14. He took the lives of 20 children and six women with a semi-automatic rifle. He also killed his mother in their Newtown home before driving to the school and committed suicide as police arrived at the scene.

While on WTIC Radio Tuesday, Chase’s mother Rebecca Kowalski said that she and her husband Steve started the effort with the “initial vision … [of creating] a community center called Chase’s Place” in Newtown.

“As things have progressed throughout the year, Steve and I felt that we didn’t want to be responsible for opening up and closing the doors to Chase’s Place,” she added. “[T]he town has been gifted many things, and we felt that we needed to go in a slightly different direction.”

The effort is the result of a teaming up between the Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund and the Greater Waterbury YMCA, and is offering preschool scholarships to children.

Kowalski added, “We didn’t want to give high school scholarships. Chase was a little boy, and he did so well with preschool. In the news, you’ve seen that a lot of people can’t afford to go to preschool, and we really wanted to go on that side of it.”

So far, 130 students have benefited from their work, she noted on the air.

In addition, the foundation is setting up a triathlon program called “Race 4 Chase” that is set to launch next June, in which both the Central Coast and Wester Connecticut YMCAs are also participating as well as the Greater Waterbury location.

“He swam and he biked and he ran every day, that was the essence of who he was,” she also noted to the Newtown Bee. “How could we not honor him in this way?”

Kevin Grimes, a neighbor who is involved in the foundation’s work, said that the three programs will allow 90 to 100 kids to participate, and will serve the whole area surrounding the school.

Grimes added, “It’s been exciting to see how the triathlon and running communities has embraced Chase and seen him as someone that they want to support and remember.”

As parents look for ways to continue moving forward from the tragedy, officials are still searching for answers.

A Connecticut state prosecutor said Monday he is dropping his bid to continue withholding recordings of 911 calls from the mass shooting last year at the Newtown elementary school. The tapes are expected to be released to the public Wednesday.

Last week, a judge ordered the prosecutor, State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, to provide the recordings to The Associated Press, affirming a ruling by the state’s Freedom of Information Commission that the calls are not exempt from public information laws.

Sedensky, who led the investigation into the massacre, said Monday he decided not to appeal the ruling after consulting with the office of the chief state’s attorney and an attorney for the town of Newtown.

The tapes to be released Wednesday include seven calls that were made to Newtown police, and do not include calls that went to state police dispatchers. The tapes will be made available at the Danbury offices of attorneys for the town of Newtown, according to a statement from the first selectman’s office.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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