When Southlake Carroll seniors Blayke Anderson and Maddie Harvey saw the news on Aug. 31 that there was a mass shooting in Odessa and Midland, they knew something had to be done for Carroll’s Week 3 football game against Odessa Permian.
The entire Carroll cheer team stepped in and began a fundraiser.
“We saw the news and knew immediately we had to do something,” Anderson said. “We called our coaches and said, ‘Don’t we play Odessa in a couple weeks?’ So we decided to make T-shirts.”
It was a quick turnaround. The team called cheer booster club president Tracy Thomas the day after the shooting, created a design for shirts on Sept. 2 and received their order on Sept. 4.
“I told them to get with the girls and come up with a design and I’ll do the rest. I’ll get it to where it needs to go,” Thomas said. “We ordered them that Monday and got them two days later. Our goal was to raise $10,000.”
And only six days to sell shirts.
They brought in over $21,000.
“It was never about the money. The goal was to be kind to a community in need,” Anderson said. “Once we launched it, we realized it was much bigger. We can bring people together. So many reached out. We felt the love and care.”
“We surprisingly met a lot of people from Odessa that now live in Southlake,” Harvey added. “It’s heartbreaking what happened, but we came together for a good cause and saw the good in people.”
Everyone jumps on board
Thomas called the Carroll volleyball and football teams, the band and the Emerald Belles to help sell.
“What they did was remarkable and we’re extremely proud of them,” Carroll athletic director Steve Keasler said.
The cheer team sold shirts at the senior high, middle school and Dragon Stadium. The shirt was black with Carroll green lettering “We Are One With Odessa.” The state of Texas was in the middle.
Hashtags “#OdessaStrong, #DragonStrong and #TexasStrong also appeared on the front of the shirt.
“We ended up organizing 12 home events. Lot of crunch time and phone calls so we could be at each event,” Harvey said. “We reached out to everyone, posted it all over social media and got a lot of help.”
“We hit our goal out of the park and I knew if we worked hard, we could raise more,” Thomas added. “I said let’s do 15,000 and then we exceeded that and I said let’s go 20. We just continued to push and push. We didn’t stop, we couldn’t because no one could replace those lives that were lost.
“I can’t be more proud of how my girls gave back. They put in the time and worked every single night to make this happen and it really speaks volumes.”
Carroll vs. Permian football game
The Dragons traveled to Odessa to play Permian on Sept. 13.
Thomas made sure the check got into the right hands.
“We presented it to Renee Earls from the Odessa Chamber of Commerce and Odessa Community Foundation,” she said.
But it wasn’t the foundation that brought the girls to tears.
It was the father of a victim, 15-year-old Leilah Hernandez. Some of the portions went to his family as he was making his first public appearance since the shooting.
“All the seniors walked out with the check and there were a ton of emotions,” Harvey said. “It broke my heart that his 15-year-old daughter was taken away from him. Once we made eye contact, I burst into tears. He was so grateful. It wasn’t about the money, but it was worth it in that moment.”
“Everyone got really emotional. The entire crowd gave a standing ovation,” Anderson added. “He was grateful that people from so far away cared enough. I didn’t know him or his daughter, but in that moment, I felt like I knew him. I’m glad he came out and we were a shoulder he could cry on. It was a special moment.”
Overall, Carroll sold 1,200 shirts and the Dragons received a donation from its sponsors.
“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the families affected in Odessa,” Carroll ISD Superintendent David Faltys said. “Extremely proud of our kids. We were happy to see the student body get behind this and raise funds for those that have suffered.”
“At the end of the day, we played a football game, but for a small moment, two communities came together during a time of need and healing,” Keasler added. “Our girls led by example.”