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Responding With Love

Responding With Love

Wichita Falls community members invent creative ways to help shooting victims’ families



It felt good for WFISD staff, students and community members to wear purple to school Tuesday, Sept. 6.


Purple was the favorite color of McNiel Middle School student Lauren Landavazo – and wearing it was a way for community members to celebrate the life of this 13-year-old girl whose life was cut tragically short Sept. 2.


Students also wore blue on Wednesday to honor another McNiel 13-year old, Makayla Smith, who was injured in the same incident but survived.


The two girls were shot Friday as they walked home from school. Lauren Landavazo died from her injuries; Makayla was hospitalized but is recovering.


Wichita Falls police apprehended a 20-year-old man on Sept. 4 – just two days later – in connection with the shootings.


How many other ways – besides wearing purple -- are there to generate kindness and spread love after such a tragedy? The Wichita Falls community continues to invent new ways:


  • Local restaurants Olive Garden, Gypsy Kit and Sam’s Club and First Baptist Church donated food to a McNiel Middle School hospitality room set up for the extra support staff, such as grief counselors, who helped at the school Tuesday, Sept. 6.
  • When McNiel Principal Tania Rushing asked police to provide an extra officer at the front and back doors to the school Tuesday, the police force responded with more than a dozen officers - all of them off duty - who volunteered their presence to create a calm, safe atmosphere at the beginning of the school day.
  • WFISD elementary school staff and principals visited McNiel Tuesday morning to provide warm, reassuring welcomes and familiar faces to the sixth- and seventh-graders, many of whom still felt new to the middle school on the 11th day of the new school year.
  • Many area counselors volunteered their time to talk to middle school students and staff during this crisis. “They know there are some things we’re not really equipped to deal with in depth,” said WFISD Communications Officer Ashley Thomas. “They are more experienced in dealing with children’s grief.”
  • Wichita Falls High School students made purple ribbons and sold them at school to raise money for the girls’ two families.
  • Frank and Joe’s Coffee Shop provided coffee to support students and community members, all in purple, who lined the McNiel corner and driveway holding signs Tuesday morning to express love and support.
  • McNiel Principal Tania Rushing and WFISD Superintendent Mike Kuhrt greeted students Tuesday morning as they walked to class in a sea of purple early Tuesday.
  • McNiel counselor Polly Birkhead set up a specific area in the school where students who wanted to talk about the tragedy could talk, draw pictures or write out their thoughts. She will post their work on a wall by the gym and later box it all up for the families.
  • One community member brought a large, framed poem and presented it to Ms. Rushing on behalf of McNiel.
  • A local daycare, Oh To Be Kids, conducted their own fundraiser and donated $1,900 each to the Landavazo and Smith families.
  • Yogurt Journey, a local yogurt shop, donated 20 percent of all of one day’s proceeds and 100 percent of all tips to both families Wednesday.
  • A GoFundMe page continues to grow in size. Currently, the fund-raising website has garnered $17,000 for the Landavazo family and $3,500 for the Smith family. Go to to donate to the Landavazo funeral; Go to https://www.gofundme.com2n4w35q2 to donate to Makayla Smith’s medical expenses.
  • Bank accounts for both victims’ families have been opened at First National Bank in Wichita Falls. You can make deposits to the accounts at either location at Fairway at Kell or Midwestern Parkway at Taft.



More fund-raising events are planned:


  • 8: Join the Midwestern State University cross-country team and Endurance House at Lake Wichita Park on Thursday, Sept. 8, for a donations-only benefit run and walk.
  • 12: Visit the Back Porch Draft House (4214 Kell Blvd., Suite 100) on Monday, Sept. 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. All profits from Monday’s sales will be donated to the Landavazo and Smith families.
  • 24: Zumbathon benefit at Zundy Elementary (1706 Polk Street) is Saturday, Sept. 24; cost: $10. Community members are invited to wear purple and participate in zumba, a run, or walk to show their support. A 5K begins at 8 a.m.; Zumba begins at 9 a.m.


McNiel Middle School will sell “We Are One” T-shirts for $10. All proceeds will go to the Landavazo and Smith families.


Mustangs Helping Mustangs will host the MSU Social Workers Bake Sale on Saturday, Sept. 10 at McNiel from noon to 4 p.m. Proceeds benefit the families.


Sam’s Club will host a cookout this weekend to benefit the Smith family family. The store hosted a similar cookout last weekend to benefit the Landavazo family.