After the tragic events of last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, my husband Nick and I, who both graduated in 2001, knew that we wanted to do something. Nick has played on the PGA Tour for nine years, as well as four years on the Web.com (formerly Nationwide) Tour, and with the PGA Tour coming to town for the Honda Classic tournament this week, we had an opportunity. We met with the tournament director, and soon after, we had a booth set up at the event to distribute rubber bracelets with the words “MSD Strong” and “Eagle Pride,” in the school colors, burgundy and silver, for donations to the school, victims, and families of the shooting.
The school mascot of Marjory Stoneman Douglas is the eagle, and our Eagle Pride was strong. We enlisted help from alumni volunteers, some of whom we did not even know prior to this week, as well as our families and friends. We talked to hundreds of people, passed out bracelets, and raised awareness. Everyone wanted to help, whether that meant giving a donation, a hug, or words of encouragement, and our community came together in a way that rendered differences in politics obsolete.
We met a current student, who had the courage and strength to be there, and he worked alongside us, helping greatly. A former Stoneman Douglas teacher stopped by, and said he came to the golf tournament to get away from the constancy of it: driving by the school, the vigils, the reminders. He was happy to see us there, and offered his support. We spoke to family members, friends, and neighbors of the victims. One woman had known a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting, and another told me he had been in a mass shooting himself, at Kent State University. There were many teachers. Everyone expressed the same wish: to protect children, and to protect everyone, from this happening again.
Another former teacher told me he had ten years in the Army, before becoming an educator. He retired in 2014, but he said that after Sandy Hook, the students confided in him. Tears came to his eyes as he recalled, “the kids told me, they wanted to be with me, if something ever happened.” They meant if they were ever shot at, they would look to him for protection. Yet another teacher, from Alberta, Canada, told me, she would stand in front of bullets for her students, too.
Although not a teacher myself, I grew up in a family of educators. Every teacher I have ever known refers to their students as “my kids.” They might not be related by blood, but educators care about their students in a way that is akin to family. They are not just students; they are children. Our society has subjected children, the youngest, most impressionable and vulnerable among us, to something that no adult would want: senseless violence. In order to make this stop happening in the future, we need to raise as much awareness as possible, that a change must be made. The time is now.
At the end of one long day at the tournament, in a familiar place, doing something I never imagined, I got ready to go home. And when I got in my car—I write this not for dramatic effect, but because it is true—a song by the Eagles, was playing on the radio.
We raised over $20,000 at the Honda Classic, and our hope is to continue raising awareness and funds for the school, families, and victims of this tragedy. Here is the link to donate to our Go Fund Me page, 100% of which will be donated to the official fund set up the nonprofit Broward Education Foundation: https://www.gofundme.com/support-msd-shooting-victims039-fund