Robb Elementary shooting victims’ families gather for Friendsgiving

The friendsgiving celebration came just two days after the six month anniversary of the tragedy.

BATESVILLE – Thanksgiving marked six months for the families of the Robb Elementary School shooting victims. Many more milestones have come and gone.

After honoring the 21 victims’ lives, on Saturday they gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving as one family.

“They call it Friendsgiving. My first one I’ve ever attend[ed] and it’s special because it’s all of our families. You know what I mean, so definitely special. Definitely thankful to be here,” Steven Garcia, Ellie Garcia’s dad, said.

“This is broccoli, rice and cheese casserole and then on the bottom is brussel sprouts,” Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Jo Garza’s grandma, said, stirring food in the oven.

The home in Batesville was packed with tons of food, smiles, hugs and a whole lot of love.

“Beautiful to see everybody together like this. It’s a family that’s grown together that we love each other, we support each other,” Jesse Rizo, Jackie Cazares’ uncle, said. “Mucho corazón, mucho amor.”

For Julissa and Manuel Rizo, their home is the perfect place to host the gathering.

It’s filled with special memories, like Jackie’s first holy communion that was held in early May.

“May 8th was the last time we gathered and then May 24th, of course we all know what happened on that day. But it was one of those days we will never forget as a family. I mean, she was so beautiful,” Julissa Cazares Rizo, Jackie’s aunt and godmother said.

As siblings and cousins of the 19 children played in the yard and Eva and Irma’s seats are empty, this new family held each other close days after the six-month anniversary of the shooting.

They’re thankful for shared strength and compassion.

“Now we have an extended family, which is beautiful that they’re all here under one roof, which is great to have,” Julissa said.

“Thank you for your friendship, for your love, for your prayers, for your kindness from day one. You know, we’re a big family,” Javier Cazares, Jackie’s dad said before the crowd ate.

This coming week, we have an hour-long special featuring the Robb Elementary victims and all that has happened these last six months in Uvalde.

That’ll air on December 2nd at 7 p.m.. We hope that you’ll join us.


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.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.