Parkland community comes to support Uvalde in time of crisis

In 2018, 17 people were shot and killed inside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

UVALDE, TexasThis story references suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can reach the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Communities united in tragedy -- the Parkland community is wrapping its arms around the Uvalde community.

“Two like little-little ones and then two kids and then a couple adults, is that fine? Okay, you want to come pull up here and I’ll meet you back here okay,” Pastor Nolan McLaughlin said to a family in their car.

“Dear Parkland” -- that message printed on black shirts, the two cities bonded in tragedy.

“Our church hosted six of the funerals there. And I attended with some of our staff all of the funerals and so when this happened here, I was like, we’ve got to do something because we’ve experienced firsthand the pain in the community that takes place,” McLaughlin said.

Pastor McLaughlin lived two miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a 19-year-old shooter.

McLaughlin now lives in San Antonio and works at Motion Church. The Robb Elementary massacre brought back all too familiar feelings of grief.

“Oftentimes after tragedies like this, suicides have taken place and we think that one more suicide is too much and so we want them to choose life and know that they’re loved and that some people in Florida and some people in San Antonio love them,” McLaughlin said.

The boxes are called Lifeboxes, a mantra held by the founder Heather Palacios. She’s struggled with thoughts of suicide since she was eight years old.

“I know what it’s like to live in a community where there has been immeasurable tragedy and I can’t fix anything but I can do something small for anybody on the cusp of wanting to give up,” Palacios, founder of and Lifeboxes said.

So they got to work. The San Antonio Church packed 600 boxes with the help of the Parkland Church.

The boxes are separated by age group and they’re also available in English and in Spanish.

Each one is put together with love, with a handwritten note inside for the person who opens it.

“Dear kids in Texas, I hope you guys are doing well and recovering from the trauma that you had and I hope you have a great summer. Sincerely, Nathan Coral Springs, Florida,” Palacios said, reading from a note in the box.

Each has a Bible, journal, pen and other items to let the opener know they’re not alone.

For Donny Ray Valdez and his kids who call Uvalde home, they can feel the love.

“We just appreciate these boxes. These boxes are going to offer some, I guess, more like hey somebody cares about us,” Valdez said.

“Here’s one for you bud and one for your friend, okay. God bless you guys,” McLaughlin said while handing boxes to cars of people.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.