Published March 17. 2013 4:00AM Updated March 17. 2013 8:19PM
Westerly - The Greater Westerly Chamber of Commerce announced last week that it expects thousands of people to line the shores of Misquamicut State Beach on May 17 to kick off the summer season and welcome people back to an area that was among the hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.
The Hands Along the Sands event, which will begin at 10 a.m., will feature thousands of residents, business owners, and supporters "holding hands to show their united front after months of recovery efforts," according to the chamber.
The chamber said that two weeks before the event, representatives from Save the Bay and the JASON Project will visit the town's schools and discuss the "changes and challenges of living in a shoreline community."
Misquamicut hosts numerous events each summer, and the first one of the summer season, the BoldrDash, is slated to be held over the two days following Hands Along the Sand.
The 5 km, military-style obstacle course at Misquamicut and the Westerly Town Beach is projected to attract 3,000 racers.
After Sandy caused an estimated $14 million of damage to Misquamicut, the Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation established a fund to provide recovery grants to small businesses in Misquamicut.
The chamber announced last week that it has now raised $315,000 for the grants. A little more than $200,000 came from the sales of "Bring Back the Beach" T-shirts, concerts and other fundraisers. A Feb. 23 gala at the Ocean House raised more than $100,000.
"The day after Sandy, I, like so many of my neighbors and friends, could only cry when witnessing the utter devastation," Lisa Konicki, the chamber's executive director said in a press release. "In the days since, the response and support to 'Bring Back the Beach' has been overwhelming. There are so many people to thank, especially the Ocean House, who helped us raise $100,000 in just one amazing evening. Thousands of us now are ready to join hands and celebrate that the beach is, indeed, back for the season."
All donations are being allocated to small businesses to help them recover and rebuild in time for the summer season.
The Jump Start Small Business Recovery Grant Fund donations are tax-deductible. Donations can be sent to 1 Chamber Way, Westerly, RI 02891. For more information, visit www.westerlychamber.org.