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Parents of Parkland school shooting victim rally against gun violence across the U.S. | News | #schoolsaftey

TULSA, Okla. — A bus tour created by the parents of a Parkland High School shooting victim is bringing awareness to gun violence and spreading the message across the U.S.

Manuela and Patricia Oliver, parents of Parkland victim Joaguin “Guac” Oliver, hope to fight against the epidemic of mass shootings by traveling across the U.S. in a school bus for “Guac’s Magical Tour – Guacathon 2023.” 

“We lost our son, Joaquin, in a shooting inside his school in Parkland almost six years ago,” Manuel said. “For us, we needed to find answers. We understand that gun violence is a national, federal issue. So, after five years of doing different projects, we thought that it would be nice to get to know people that have also been hit by gun violence. And for that reason, we created the tour.”

Manuel said Joaquin’s birthday is on August 4 and he would have turned 23 years old. Because of this, there are 23 stops on the Guacathon tour. 

The tour is a part of the Olivers’ organization, “Change The Ref.”

According to their website, Change The Ref (CTR), was formed to empower our Future Leaders. CTR gives the kids of today the tools they need to be empowered to make changes to critical issues that affect our nation, through education, conversation, and activism. It uses urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation to expose the disastrous effects of the mass shooting pandemic.

The Olivers aren’t alone, either. Joining them on the tour is Cameron Kasky, Co-Founder of March For Our Lives, and Sam Schwartz, an activist whose cousin, Alex Schacter, was also killed in the Parkland shooting.

During the tour, they have met families and loved ones of those lost in Uvlade, Sante Fe, Orlando Pulse, Las Vegas, Tuscon and more.

“Meeting with survivors and other victims and know exactly, exactly how we feel,” Manuel said. “There’s an immediate connection.”

Manuel said though this event does bring sadness and pain, there’s also empowerment and comfort in gathering together and supporting one another. 

When asked why the Olivers chose a school bus to use on the tour, Manuel said it’s because it makes an impact. 

“The school bus is about the future, about kids,” he said. ‘That’s the initial idea, that your brain processes while you see a school bus. Doing these on on any other vehicle will not have the same impact.”

The bus has a stage on the roof and screens, allowing the tour organizers to rally and spread their message to crowds across the U.S.

“I always try to let people know that I’m not doing this only for students in schools,” Manuel explained. “Yes, my son was shot inside the school, but I see gun violence in a big picture. I see people that die every single day … we cannot stay and pretend to solve this just by security in schools. I think it’s about preventing things from happening and not [just] defending while they’re happening.”

On Monday, the tour landed at the Southminster Presbyterian Church near 35th and Peoria. 

For more information about the tour and upcoming tour dates and cities, click here

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