MEET THE FOUNDER
I grew up in the small rural town of Lenhartsville, Pa., about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where gun ownership was just a fact of country life. My parents taught me responsible gun etiquette: how to use a gun safe and locks, how to store bullets away from the weapon and make sure the weapon is not loaded, and most importantly, to never point a gun towards another person.
In 2005, the gun violence that had been steadily creeping into the corners of my consciousness became all too real. After graduating from Kutztown Area High School in 2003, I headed attend to college at Temple University. Temple University, while a respected school, is located in North Philadelphia, a notoriously violent neighborhood. It was there that my friends and I, from the vantage point of my off-campus apartment, witnessed a reckless drive-by shooting. Driving alone down the block, the shooter began firing into a basketball court of a housing project, then reversed his car down a one-way street to continue shooting aimlessly, showing no concern for any collateral damage he may have caused by striking innocent bystanders.
More shock and dismay came later in the summer of that year, when my friend and classmate Bryan “Hollywood” Yeshion Schneps was fatally shot during a robbery at his off-campus apartment. I may never come to terms with his death, and the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School rehashed vivid memories of him. Seven years later, I still remembered Bryan as a friend who always filled a room with bright energy, and could always be counted on to instill hope and happiness in those around him.
As news of the events at Sandy Hook unfolded, I considered the uncertainty and the fragility of our lives. In losing Bryan, my personal experience with gun violence was distilled into one powerful memory: the haunting and palpable sound of dirt being shoveled onto his casket before he was finally laid to rest. It is something I will always remember.
I reflected on his memory even as I thought about my future calling. As a country boy raised with a naïve outlook on the effects of gun violence, I decided to be proactive in helping grieving survivors to heal. I wanted to do more to help them resume their lives– emotionally, physically and mentally.
I hope you’ll join me in my mission to make a difference.