Parkland proves it is MSD Strong

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Jonathan Fields graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in 1998 and was in the process of helping to plan his 20th class reunion when tragedy struck in Parkland on February 14. Like most of the community, the nation, and the world Fields helplessly watched in pain and disbelief after hearing the news of the shooter who killed 14 students and three teachers at a place where he himself had felt safe for four years.

“This is the least I can do to give back to the community I grew up in and love so much,” said Fields, a licensed practitioner in Oriental medicine, who is offering free group acupuncture to help heal PTSD, stress, and anxiety.

Both locals and those outside of the South Florida area are pitching in by creating funds or donating to various funds that help the surviving families, including getting them to the March for our Lives that took place last month in Washington, D.C. Locally, there were similar events happening last month.

Coming from celebrities and donors around the world, millions of dollars have been raised to help victims, their families and the community. Here in Parkland and its surrounding communities of Coral Springs, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek, and Boca Raton the support continues. With varied areas of expertise, area residents have found a way to volunteer, participate, donate, and help.

They sell and wear T-shirts and bracelets with slogans like “#MSD Strong” or “Enough is Enough,” “March for our Lives,” or “Never Again.” Parkland resident mortgage lender Mike Smith donated dozens of “Parkland Strong” T-shirts. Other residents walked, ran, marched, worked out, protested, laughed, and cried. They donated blood, lit candles, and helped in any way they could — to raise money, provide strength, and show support.

They created fundraising groups and events, like Kids First Politics Second and the MSD Strong 5K/10K Virtual Race. Registration for the latter is open through April 30, with 100 percent of the net proceeds being donated to several MSD Victim GoFundMe accounts, according to the event’s page at

They continue to help wounded student Anthony Borges pay his hospital costs; help teacher Ivy Schamis feed Luigi, her 19-month-old therapy dog; and help alleviate travel costs for victims’ families who attended the March for our Lives in Washington, DC. MSD teachers Frank Krar and Penny Pogano are now sporting MSD Strong tattoos.

They raised money while attending dance shows at Broadway Bound; exercising at a Zumbathon (created by area Zumba teachers) at Piper High; creating art at Painting with a Twist; burning calories at Orange Theory; running with Runners Depot; and taking Pilates classes with 100 percent of the fees going to MSD Strong.

Gabe Glassman, a sophomore at MSD, can no longer attend class in the building that is now a crime scene. His parents, Aaron and Lisa, wanted to do something to help the teachers and students who have been displaced from their classrooms, so they began a drive to collect school supplies. For simplicity, Lisa asked that the supplies be sent to her home. She did not expect the amount of packages that arrived from not only around South Florida, but also from around the state, nation, and as far away as France and Switzerland. It got too big, so the Glassmans moved it to the clubhouse in their Parkland community, Cypress Head, and received help from neighbors.

“So many people came out to help,” Aaron Glassman said. “They pitched in organizing all of the school supplies into bins breaking down boxes and moving stuff over to the clubhouse.”  The couple also raised nearly $8,000 selling T-shirts and magnets.

Laura Simoncini of Laura’s Ultimate Pilates in Parkland charged $25 to participants with proceeds benefitting the families and memorial fund. She started with a moment of silence and lit 17 candles in the studio, and then sold T-shirts that say “Pilates for Change” and “MSD Strong.”

“It really hit home for me because we know so many people who were affected by this and my heart is just breaking,” said Simoncini, whose twin sons lost a friend in the shooting. “Whatever I can do. I want to do more classes to raise more. I was so glad to help in some way.”

Help came from Parkland restaurants such as Déjà Blue, which organized a White Night of Remembrance, and Pizza Time Caffe, which held a fundraiser with Alliance Corporate Contracting. Owner Mark Papaleo donated 100 percent of pizza sales to help raise funds to send Parkland families to participate in the March for our Lives last month.

In New York City, MSD alumni organized a billboard in Times Square to honor 17 victims, which was donated by a sign company for a 24-hour period.

Various religious organizations have sent counselors to help survivors cope. The State of Israel has brought specialists from the Israel Trauma Coalition.

Cathy Carter, whose son is a junior at MSD, found support from her co-workers at the Pompano Beach dental office where she works as a dental technician. Lisa and Aaron Glassman, partners in a real estate law firm, collected school supplies at Cypress Head community for teachers who have been displaced from their regular classrooms. The tireless parent volunteers, like Tammi Donato, kept on volunteering.

Even the little things, like having Donato text “How are you?” meant a lot to teacher Schamis, whose class was terrorized by the shooter. “I have been getting so many shout outs just to see if I’m OK,” Schamis said. “They’re making it more bearable than it would have been.”

Area residents honored slain students by recognizing those activities they loved the most. Martin, Peter, and Alaina were honored as members of the JROTC; Jaime for her love of dance; and Alyssa for her love of soccer.

Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was killed, said in a Miami Herald video: “Please know that the incredible support is deeply appreciated and has made a lasting impact on our lives. Thank you.”

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