Upstate Professor Collects Thousands Of Holiday Cards For Kids Impacted By Mass Shootings

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SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – This is the third year a SUNY Oswego professor is collecting holiday cards, hand written by students and other volunteers, for kids who lost family members to mass shootings across the country. The goal is to send out 15,000 cards this year.

SUNY Oswego students Will Johnson and Gracie Casscles write cards to kids who have been affected by mass shootings. TOM MAGNARELLI / WRVO PUBLIC MEDIA

Will Johnson, a senior political science major at SUNY Oswego checks off the names on a list of 74 children impacted by shootings in Las Vegas, Parkland and Aurora. Scattered across a table are colorful Christmas cards with images of winter scenes.

“I’ll start off, I’ll say, dear so-and-so, I’m a student at Oswego State University,” Johnson said. “I’m writing you to wish you a very happy holidays. Remember there will always be people who care about and support you. The world is a better place with you in it.”

He underlines the word ‘you’ in each card.

“They may have experienced a tragedy, but they’re still extremely important,” Johnson said.

For Gracie Casscles, also a senior, it’s about sending holiday cheer to someone who needs it.

“I obviously have never experienced anything as close to as hard as they have,” Casscles said. “My heart breaks for them. Each child is going to get a box full of cards. Hopefully, that brings some help during this season.”

Jaclyn Schildkraut, an associate professor of criminal justice, who is originally from Parkland, started the card campaign after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017. She connected with a survivor who was trying to collect gifts for families who lost loved ones. Students in her class were looking for ways to boost their grades at the end of the semester. So, she had them write cards to three boys who lost their mother.

“Then I found out there was about three dozen other kids in the same situation,” Schildkraut said. “A couple of email posts later and we had 2,000 cards, which was amazing.”

Schildkraut said she does hear back from families with kids who are excited to receive the cards.

“It was really sort of this poignant moment that even in this time of sadness, we could bring some joy and relief and that was so awesome,” Schildkraut said.

And as more families need their help, help continues to grow. This year, the New York City Police Department pledged a minimum of 500 cards.

“So this could go a lot bigger,” Schildkraut said. “I might need a bigger house.”