NORTH SALEM, N.Y.-A junior at North Salem High School with a personal connection to the shooting in Parkland, Fla. is raising money for the victims of the Feb. 14 tragedy by selling pins with the slogan #NeverAgain.
Evan Teplensky, a 16-year-old who lives in Somers and goes to North Salem High School, was scanning Twitter when news broke of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, taking the lives of 17 people.
Evan knew his friend, Hannah Karcinell, lived in Parkland and pulled out his phone to look at a video she recently had sent him that included her location. Then his stomach dropped.
“I saw Parkland, Fla., trending on Twitter, so I went to my phone, and two years ago she sent me a video, and if you look at the top it says the location of where the photo was taken and I looked and it said [Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School]. I said, ‘Oh, my god, she’s there,’ ” Evan said. “I texted her and I said, ‘I just saw there is a shooting. Are you OK?’ And she didn’t respond for at least 30 minutes.”
Evan had met Hannah a few years earlier when they both attended a business summer camp for high school students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The two became fast friends and stayed in touch throughout the year afterward, exchanging texts and phone calls a few times a week. She also visited him.
While Evan was staring at his phone waiting for a response, 1,300 miles away Hannah was running for her life.
According to news reports, the 18-year-old and her friends had walked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 for what they believed was a fire drill while a gunman entered the school with an AR-15 assault-style rifle.
Hannah told The Washington Post that she was given instructions to run once outside the school and headed to a Walmart down the road where she hid and waited for her friends to join her. Some made it. Some did not.
Finally, after what felt like forever for Evan, he saw Hannah’s name flash on his phone.
“She said, ‘My phone died. Thanks so much for texting,’ ” Evan remembered. “I said, ‘Where are you?’ and she said, ‘I’m at a Walmart nearby.’ ”
Evan is the kind of person who can’t just sit around when he sees a perceived injustice and he doesn’t want any of his other friends to go through what Hannah has.
“I don’t want this to happen to any other school and I wanted to help raise money for the victims’ fund to stop this because no other country has this problem of school shootings,” Evan said.
Two weeks after the shooting, he had designed his commemorative pin and ordered 300. The idea was to sell them for $2 each and donate all the proceeds to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund, www.stonemandouglasvictimsfund.org.
The fund was created by the Broward Education Foundation led by former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux of Florida and a group of business and civic leaders working with the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Donations will be used to provide relief and financial support to the shooting victims and their families.
Evan started selling the pins to his classmates but wants to raise more money, so he is making them available to the community. To buy a pin, email Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Evan told Hannah about the fundraiser, she was grateful and sent him a “Parkland Strong” shirt on which to wear the pin.
“It’s hard as a friend to try to talk to her about this,” Evan said. “She actually knew someone who was shot.”
So far, Evan has raised $300 for the fund and would order more pins if people are interested.
Evan said he has been inspired particularly by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for standing up and making their voices heard on the subject of gun control, not an easy task for any teen.
“My dream job is to go into politics,” Evan said. “It’s kind of a little cliché, but I want to speak out for those who can’t and just by doing that, it makes me feel good because I’m able to help, even though this didn’t happen to me.”