Two emergency funds were created Wednesday in response to the Uvalde school shooting. All contributions to the funds will financially assist victims and families directly impacted, while another fund will help nonprofits working with them to provide long-term assistance.
“It will be hard for the parents to go to work experiencing this tragedy. It will be hard for them to sleep. Their grief will remain with them long after the news cameras leave,” Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said as he announced the creation of the funds.
Donations will be managed by the San Antonio Area Foundation, an organization that manages funds that address community needs through grants, programs and scholarships.
The Uvalde Strong Survivors Fund will directly provide long-term financial assistance to families and survivors, while the second fund, the Uvalde Strong Fund, will support area nonprofits that provide assistance, including mental health and counseling services to the community.
Donors are encouraged to donate to the funds online to ensure all funds go directly to those impacted. To donate, click here.
At a news conference at the Children’s Bereavement Center of San Antonio, Gonzales said families will need medical, financial and mental health support.
“Many of the victims were rushed to our trauma centers in San Antonio and we also will be reaching out to them to provide whatever support they need while they are here, but I know that won’t be enough,” he said.
The United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County also created a fund Wednesday to support immediate and long-term mental health services for the students, teachers and families impacted in Uvalde.
“We will make these funds available to nonprofit organizations with experience and expertise in providing direct mental health services for communities impacted by trauma,” United Way wrote in a statement.
LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, also established a fund for Uvalde survivors. In a statement, the organization said 100% of funds received will go directly to the families. The announcement of the funds comes as the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office has received bodies of victims from the shooting.
Several GoFundMe funds have also been created in support of the victims, but the platform is known to charge a fee. The First State Bank of Uvalde has also opened a donation account for the families of Robb Elementary.
Counselors from the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas are no stranger to working with victims of mass shootings. In 2017, the center worked with young victims of the Sutherland Springs mass shooting that occurred at a church.
Plans for how the Children’s Bereavement Center will help families from Uvalde are still being developed. In response to the mass shooting in 2017, a center was established in Floresville and counselors of the center were present in the community for support for three years.
“We don’t know what that looks like,” said Marian Sokol, executive director of the center. “If there is a summer school in Uvalde, we may be there.”
Opportunities to establish a similar space in Uvalde are being donated by property owners, but the mental health professionals are still learning the scale of counseling needs, according to Kristina Hernandez, development director at the center.
Ashley Jesse, program manager of grief education and clinical training, said she still works with victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting.
For now, she said children in Uvalde need space to process what has happened, attend funerals and ask their parents questions. If parents notice changes in moods, behaviors, sleeping or eating, Jesse will begin to work with parents to help the children cope with post-traumatic symptoms.
At the center in San Antonio, several play therapy and expressive art rooms are available to children who need them. There are also 17 full-time child grief therapists, four contracted full-time counselors and at least 10 interns.
As of Wednesday, the bodies of the students who lost their lives in the mass shooting are slowly being identified as their families take to social media to express their grief. One teacher that was killed was a mother of four.
“Every child that was there, it’s not just grief, it’s trauma,” Sokol said. “Many children, after an episode like this, have to work through the trauma. The physical and emotional reactions to the sounds and those awful experiences they had with sirens and helicopters. … Lives change overnight, and that’s what happened.”