Tragedy Results in the Best of Humanity in Coral Springs
The tragic events of February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have forever changed the fabric of our community. With such devastating loss and grief, the City saw some of the most gracious gestures of kindness and generosity – we believe it is important to shine a light on such goodness.
Local restaurants rolled up their sleeves to provide food for grief-stricken families who were preparing for funerals and memorials. A dozen restaurants organized and coordinated with Runyon’s owner, Kevin O’Connor, to serve more than 4,000 meals. This was in addition to countless restaurants organizing fundraisers and events to benefit the victims.
When John Biesterfeld of Green Thumb Mowers learned that Coach Aaron Feis – a longtime customer of his landscape oriented business - was one of the 17 victims who was killed on that fateful day, he quickly organized with local businesses and corporations to set up a Florida prepaid scholarship for Aaron’s daughter – Arielle. Of the scholarship, John says, “The last thing I wanted Aaron’s widow, Melissa, to worry about is their daughter’s education. Considering the sacrifice Coach Feis made to protect others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, it was the least we could do.” The $45K scholarship will cover Arielle’s tuition and dormitory fees. John’s donation did not stop there, he contacted BB&T Bank to personally pay off Aaron’s commercial lawn mower and in turn donate it to the MSD Athletic Department. He knew it would have been what Aaron wanted. However, when the bank learned of John’s intentions, they satisfied the $9K loan. In addition to the lawn mower and donated landscape equipment, John is providing lifetime maintenance on the mower free of charge. When it was delivered, Coach Willis May was overcome with emotion saying “I miss my friend so much, but I know he would want his lawn mower used here at the school, this just means so much.”
The kindness did not stop there, the Coral Springs Center for the Arts opened their doors to students, faculty and first-responders to provide therapeutic art programs. All of the art projects, which were facilitated by art therapists, were designed to simply offer a place to “be.” Of the program, Julia Andrews said, “We wanted to provide a safe haven and outlet for those directly affected by this tragedy.” When the museum learned that several Broward County school students painted “Stones for Stoneman” and did not have a location for them to be placed, they coordinated with Parks and Recreation to have them placed in the Peace Garden. The creative placement was coordinated Broward County art teachers along with art and music therapists the garden now displays the stars and stones.
The museum served as host to many healing and celebration of life events. The decision to avoid publicity, ensured privacy to those seeking respite - keeping the focus on healing and prayer. Recognizing the on-going effects of the trauma inflicted on the participants, the museum worked with the Community Foundation of Broward for financial support and are pleased to announce the program will continue for as long as it takes.
Healing became a common term used in describing the aftermath of the MSD tragedy. In an effort to reunite the many first-responders, students, faculty and family members, the City of Coral Springs hosted a Day of Healing and community cookout at North Community Park. The private event, which was funded by generous business donors locally and nationally, was staffed by more than 75 City employees, who volunteered their time to help bring together victims and first responders.
While as a community we continue to mourn the students and educators who were violently taken from us, we praise our residents, business owners, as well as citizens far and wide, who offered their support. We continue to stand with Stoneman Douglas and will forever remain - #MSDStrong.
Public Information Officer/Writer