Breaking News
More () »

Santa Fe shooting survivors create nonprofit for mental health awareness

Four former Santa Fe High School students run Hearts United For Kindness, a nonprofit focused on mental health awareness and kindness.

SANTA FE, Texas — Difficult memories from that dark day in Santa Fe still pain former students like Grace Johnson.

"Shots were being fired in the hallway right next to me," Johnson said. "We all hid in an attic space probably only 50 feet way from where unfortunately 10 people lost their lives."

In the year since, they've felt hurt, guilt and unbelievable responsibility.

"I always want to honor their memory in everything that I do, so it's a big inspiration to me," said Annabelle O'Day.

It's why days after the shooting, O'Day, a former Santa Fe High senior, knew something needed to be done.

"This gunman came in and changed our lives and destroyed some lives, too," O'Day said. "You can't change what happened, but you're in control of how you react to it."

Their reaction is helping change lives. O'Day, Johnson, Madison McKaskill and Kaitlyn Richards together run Hearts United For Kindness, a nonprofit focused on mental health awareness and kindness.

"I said you know what, let's do something that will bring people together, because that we needed in that time, and that's what the world needs," O'Day said.

Together with community partners like the Houston Dynamo, Hearts United raised nearly $30,000 and awarded more than $20,000 in scholarships and grants to seniors and survivors of the shooting.

"We're making progress of lifting the stigma of mental health," Richards said.

They're also providing resources for those suffering from PTSD. Their message resonates because they were inside Santa Fe High the day of the shooting.

"I hope to be able to go into other communities where this might happen and let them know you have support from other people, other survivors," O'Day said.

Their work in the aftermath of the shooting has earned them recognition from a Houston hero. J.J. Watt surprised the girls when he presented them with the 2019 Sportsmanship Award at the Houston Sports Awards this year -- a testament to their dedication and fight to make Santa Fe and the world a better, kinder place.

"Originally your town will come together and then they will divide, and then it's up to you to figure out how to bring them back together," Johnson said.

For these four girls, kindness was the answer. And thanks to them, Santa Fe is stronger than ever before.


Since Santa Fe shooting, students still carry emotional wounds from tragic day

Santa Fe: Do one act of kindness to honor victims of deadly school shooting

One year after the Santa Fe High School shooting, are students any safer?

One year after Santa Fe school shooting, families remain heartbroken. These are their stories.

Brothers in arms: Santa Fe ISD officers first to confront the shooter

Remembering Grammy: Family still coping with loss a year after school shooting

Before You Leave, Check This Out