Local delivers kindness and more to Uvalde, TX
By Don Rush
As many in the Oxford area can attest, healing can be an elusive animal. What works for one, may not work for another. In the case of one Oxford High School shooting survivor, a summer’s long act of helping others has helped her in the healing process.
On Friday, Sept. 2, Ella Klimowicz, 18 and her family hand delivered stuffed Wildcats, handwritten cards, worry stones and trinkets of love to students and staff who survived last May’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. The Klimocwiczs also delivered cards from Oxford Community Schools staff to staff at the Uvalde elementary school. On the cards they pinned maroon and white ribbons (Uvalde’s school colors). “And on the white part were paw prints representing Oxford, so it kinda’ united us together.”
(A worry stone is a small, smooth stone often made from a crystal or gemstone which is shaped like an oval and has a thumb-shaped indentation. The object of worry stones is to rub the thumbprint back and forth as a way to calm the mind.)
“I was just really angry and upset that something like this happened again to another community,” Klimowicz said. “I started thinking of ways and things that helped me. And, stuffed animals and blankets and therapy dogs really helped me. So, I thought maybe I could set up a fundraiser to give those kids stuffed animals. I wanted to find a way to help.”
What she did was come up with a plan and by the beginning of June started a GoFundMe account which raised almost $24,000. Then it was a matter of finding items to deliver to Texas. She said the stuffed Wildcats came from a company called Stuffed Safari in Illinois. The worry stones were purchased from Amazon and the cards, “we just did ourselves.”
It was a lot of work. “The motivation, I guess and determination to make it happen – I just really wanted them to have this happen,” she said. “Most of the summer I was working on making cards. Sometimes friends would help.
According to Klimowicz, students and staff from Robb Elementary who survived the mass shooting of May 24, in which 19 students and two teachers were slain and 17 other wounded, this year were “displaced” – being moved to two new schools in the district. Robb Elementary is permanently closed. She, her mother Carrie, father Jamie and brother Andrew (now a sophomore at OHS), placed stuffed Wildcats and handmade cards on 1,100 students’ desks. They also delivered cards and words of encouragement to 180 staff members of that elementary school.
“It only took a couple of hours. It wasn’t too bad. We all worked together well. And, with whatever leftover money we had, we were able to give all the displaced teachers $200,” she said.
* * *
Since the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School where her classmates Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Schilling and Madisyn Baldwin lost their lives, Klimowicz said she is “doing good.” She is now a freshman at Oakland University studying business en-route going into law.
It wasn’t always so “good.” In an interview with the Boston radio station WBUR on Sept;. 6, she said, “It was unimaginably very, very hard. Every single day my goal would be to just stay in the building. If that’s in the counseling office, a therapy room, it didn’t matter. If I was in the building, I was proud of myself at the end of the day.”
It is getting easier, she said on Sept. 8.
“Right now the hardest part is going to a different school,” she said. “Leaving that (OHS) community, leaving those teachers, those friends and not being around people who understand what we’re going through. At school (OU) people say, ‘Oh, I never thought I’d meet one of you guys.’ And, I say, ‘I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
And, what has helped her on her healing journey from Nov. 30 to now?
“The support from the other communities – communities who have gone through this before helps out a lot, just knowing that other people understand. Knowing we are not alone,” she said. Adding survivors of other shootings and members of their communities have sent cards, well-wishes and items like blankets to Oxford survivors. “And, just seeing the support from other communities who have not gone through this helps, too.”
She also gives credit to the trusty Klimowicz family hound, Bear, a two year old Goldendoodle.
“He’s just super cuddly. He doesn’t say anything. He’s kinda’ just there, I don’t know. Dogs are just good therapy,” she said. To those still in the healing process she shared, “The only way you can heal is by moving forward and trying to find the best of the good. Try and make positives. You can’t make the situation a positive, but you can make positives. Help other people out, too. Doing this (Uvalde aide) really helped me.”
As a side note, the Klimowiczs wanted to let local folks know the new elementary schools in Uvalde with playground equipment in disrepair or no playground equipment at all. “We thought it was worth mentioning. Maybe more people would like to donate to that cause,” Carrie Klimowicz said.