Board of Directors
Anita Busch, President
Anita Busch is president of VictimsFirst. Her family has suffered through two mass shootings, the theater shooting in Aurora and the Route 91 concert in Vegas. After her cousin, Micayla, was murdered at the movie theater massacre in Aurora, CO that left 12 dead (and an unborn baby) and 70 injured, Busch helped create a new model for charitable giving to ensure that 100% of donations collected for victims of mass casualty crime actually go directly to those victims.
Anita gathered together parents and family members of those killed in 9/11, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Aurora, Oak Creek Sikh Temple and Sandy Hook – to craft the protocol for the National Compassion Fund which has been utilized after multiple mass casualty crimes, including Ft. Hood, Aurora, CO, Chattanooga, Orlando Pulse, Las Vegas, Charlottesville, Parkland, Santa Fe, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Aurora, IL, El Paso and Milwaukee. She served as a victim’s specialist/advocate helping the Ventura County Community Fund distribute donations to survivors after the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA.
She is a key co-founder of the National Compassion Fund and currently serves as a Mass Violence Relief Specialist and Advisor to the Fund. To date, she has personally helped victims/survivors and/or communities behind the scenes in 22 mass casualty crimes.
During those 7 ½ years, she interviewed mass shooting families of the deceased, those survivors injured both physically and mentally to develop Best Practices for Mass Casualty Crime, which helps communities organize after these tragic events without re-victimizing victims. This trauma-informed document has been shared by politicians, mass shooting victims and communities around the country and worldwide.
She has been an editor and a reporter for over 30 years. She is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, the former film editor of Variety and Deadline. She has worked for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Time magazine, and other leading publications/media covering everything from business, advertising/marketing, entertainment, and public corruption. Anita also worked pro bono with the Association for the Recovery of Children, an organization comprised of former law enforcement and CIA officers which rescues kidnapped and sex-trafficked children from around the world.
Anita is the media consultant for the No Notoriety campaign and helped develop the protocol with founders Caren and Tom Teves whose son, Alex, was murdered in the mass shooting in Aurora. The No Notoriety protocol was established to help ensure public safety and limit copycat mass shooting crimes by asking the media to limit the name and photos of shooters and terrorists and instead concentrate on the victims and the heroes. It has been endorsed by law enforcement across the nation and the world as well as mass shooting victims across America.
On July 20, 2020 -- with Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) whose office secured bi-partisan support -- she has worked to establish this country’s first-ever National Heroes Day to honor everyday heroes in these United States. It was inspired by four incredible young men -- John Larimer, Jonathan Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves -- who sacrificed their lives to save others in the Aurora theater shooting.
She has received many awards, but is most proud of the Courage Award from the National Center for Victims of Crime for her work on behalf of crime victims. Anita, herself, is a survivor of violent crime.
Dr. Zachary Blair, Vice President
Dr. Zachary Blair received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he conducted violence-centered research around issues of race, gender, sexuality, and space. While living in Central Florida, he helped victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub with organizing, research, and public records requests. Zachary worked for nine years in university administration, is published in academic journals and edited volumes, and has also taught college-level courses. As a public health official in Washington State, Zachary has also worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the positions of Community Health Specialist and Branch Director for Isolation/Quarantine in a local health jurisdiction.
David Bilu, Director
An alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, David helped form an integral chain of care for the students, teachers, families and victims following the high school shooting on February 14, 2018 which resulted in 17 deaths. He helped form a group of alumni over 11,000 strong to assist in everything from Meal Trains, to Emergency Funds, to organizing the March for Our Lives in March 2020. David organized buses to send over 2,000 students and teachers to Washington DC for the March and also was Captain for the local March in Parkland. David worked directly with Anita Busch and the National Compassion Fund to secure millions in financial relief that went directly to the victim base. David is a licensed insurance broker currently living in Florida.
Javier Nava, Director
Javier Nava works as a Mass Violence Relief Specialist for the National Compassion Fund. Javier has been a victims’ rights advocate since recovering from a gunshot to the abdomen on June 12, 2016 when a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL and began shooting. Four of Javier’s friends were also murdered that night in a tragic mass casualty crime that killed 49 people and wounded 68. After the Vegas shooting, Javier travelled to meet with victims in both NV and CA. Most recently, Javier helped the victims of the Wal-mart shooting in El Paso, TX where 22 shoppers were killed and 25 others were wounded or injured. Javier also travelled to Washington D.C. to talk to House speaker Nancy Pelosi and also Rep. Gabby Giffords (herself a wounded survivor of the Tucson mass shooting) to advocate for sensible gun laws.
Amanda Bean, Treasurer/Secretary
Amanda Bean was injured in the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017. She comes to VictimsFirst to help both survivors and communities in the immediate aftermath of a mass casualty event. She brings her knowledge of planning, coordinating, and first-hand experience to assist others in navigating through these life-altering tragedies. Amanda has a background in non-profit work, including Girl Scouts of the USA and the Special Olympics. In addition, she co-chaired the board of directors for the Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles. She also has coordinated and trained volunteers for many organizations, including the California Mid-State Fair. She has a degree in Event Planning and Management with a minor in Integrated Marketing Communications from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She is passionate about bringing awareness to and raising monies for organizations through events and fundraisers.
Dr. E.K. "Ted" Rynearson
“Ted” Rynearson is a clinical psychiatrist and researcher from Seattle Washington where he founded the section of psychiatry at the Mason Clinic. In addition to full-time clinical practice, he has served on the clinical faculty of the University of Washington as a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry.
For over 40 years, Dr. Rynearson has maintained a particular clinical and research focus on the effects of violent death on family members published in clinical papers, book chapters and two books entitled, Retelling Violent Death and Violent Death: Resilience and Intervention Beyond the Crisis.
He has given numerous national and international trainings on the management of the clinical effects of violent death and with grant support has founded a non-profit organization (the Violent Death Bereavement Society) with its own Internet site (vdbs.org) establishing an informative network for service providers, teachers and researchers of traumatic grief after violent death. His international work included a collaborative training program for Israeli and Palestinian clinicians in supporting members of their communities with traumatic grief associated with violent death.
Dr. Rynearson lives on Puget Sound and when younger rowed each dawn in his rowing scull (weather and tide permitting) and almost always saw a seal or an eagle.
Dr. Julie Kaplow
Julie Kaplow, PhD, ABPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist, board certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Dr. Kaplow founded the SAMHSA-funded Trauma and Grief (TAG) Center in 2012 while on faculty at the University of Michigan Medical School and brought the Center to Texas in 2014. She now serves as the Executive Director of the TAG Center at The Hackett Center for Mental Health. In this role, she develops, evaluates, and disseminates trauma- and bereavement-informed “best practices” to community providers nationwide. Following Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Kaplow and her team provided evidence-based risk screening and interventions to children and families adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. She also helped to establish the Santa Fe Resiliency Center following the Santa Fe High School shooting, where TAG Center staff have provided evidence-based assessment and treatment to families who were impacted by the shooting.
A strong proponent of a scientist-practitioner approach, Dr. Kaplow’s primary research interests focus on the biological, behavioral, and psychological consequences of childhood trauma and bereavement, with an emphasis on therapeutically modifiable factors that can be used to inform interventions. Dr. Kaplow has published widely on the topics of childhood trauma and grief, with over 75 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, including articles focused on marginalized populations such as LGBTQ youth and youth of color. She is lead author of Multidimensional Grief Therapy, co-author of Collaborative Treatment of Traumatized Children and Teens: The Trauma Systems Therapy Approach, and co-author of Trauma and Grief Component Therapy for Adolescents. She has served as a consultant to the DSM-5 Sub-Work Group on Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder, the ICD-11 Work Group on Disorders Associated with Stress (PTSD and Prolonged Grief), the National Academy of Medicine (Scientific Advisory Council on Child Death), and the Mass Violence and Children Working Group of the FBI.
Dr. Kaplow received her BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan and her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Duke University. She completed her internship at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School followed by specialized postdoctoral training in childhood trauma at the Center for Medical and Refugee Trauma at Boston Medical Center.
Dr. Alison Salloum
Alison Salloum, PhD, LCSW is a Professor at the University of South Florida, School of Social Work. She received her MSW and PhD from Tulane University School of Social Work. Dr. Salloum has extensive clinical experience providing treatment for children and families who have experienced traumatic events. Dr. Salloum’s research focuses on implementation of trauma-related evidence-based treatments; service delivery methods to address treatment barriers for children and their families; childhood trauma, loss, and anxiety; and ways to support helping professionals so that they may serve others effectively. She is the author of Grief and Trauma in Children: A Evidence-Based Treatment Manual (Routledge, 2015), Group Work with Adolescents after Violent Death: A Manual for Practitioners (Brunner-Routledge, 2004) and Reactions: A Workbook for Children Experiencing Grief and Trauma (Centering Corporation, 1998). Dr. Salloum has presented workshops nationally and internationally to help clinicians working with children who suffer from grief and trauma, and is the author of numerous publications regarding trauma-informed care and childhood trauma.
Coni Sanders is co-owner of PFA since 2008. She graduated from University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Clinical Psychology. She graduated with honors from Regis University with a Bachelor's degree in Clinical Counseling with a minor in the Psychology of Violence. She is also a DVOMB approved provider. She is a Certified First Responder Counselor providing services to our first responders. She speaks nationally on High Profile Grieving in addition to working at the Colorado State Mental Institute. Coni has true compassion for her work and has proven that she holds a strong commitment to her clients and their ability to create positive change in their lives.
Laura Takacs is a 2004 graduate of the University of Washington School of Social Work and School of Public Health. Since graduating, Laura has worked both internationally and domestically, with those impacted by war. Currently, Laura serves as the Clinical Director at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Grief Services, where she provides both individual and group therapy to the bereaved after a sudden, traumatic death, utilizing the Restorative Retelling model.
Prior to her role at Grief Services, Laura worked in the Middle East where she utilized Restorative Retelling while working with Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Laura has presented the Restorative Retelling model in the United States, Canada and the Middle East.
Laura holds her LICSW and MPH and has completed a post‐graduate Certificate in Psychological Trauma from the University of Washington.
Bob Weiss became a gun violence survivor at 9:15pm. May 23, 2014 when his life changed forever. His 19 year-old daughter Veronika, a freshman at UC Santa Barbara, bled out on the sidewalk in front of a sorority house on the University's Greek Row. She was walking back to her sorority with her sisters, Katie, who was shot in the eye socket and died instantly, and Bianca, who sustained a gunshot wound to her kidney, and survived. Bob has first-hand experience dealing with woefully unprepared municipalities who willfully chose to believe that "it could never happen here." This lack of preparedness and protocol leads to the exploitation and abuse of the most vulnerable of us, grieving parents in shock. Since May 2014, the day after his beloved daughter was shockingly and violently taken, Bob has advocated for gun reform and survivor rights.
Katie Medley is the co-founder of the non-profit Project Hope Baskets in Colorado. With her husband Caleb Medley and other survivors and friends from CO, they deliver gift baskets of hope and notes of encouragement to first responders, medical teams, city and county officials and victims and survivors of mass casualty crimes and natural disasters. Katie was nine-months pregnant with their first child when she and Caleb (a stand-up comedian) became victims and survivors of the Aurora theater mass shooting. They have delivered Hope Baskets of donated items to first responders and medical teams after the mass shooting in Vegas, Highlands Ranch (STEM school) and to the survivors of the disastrous floods on the border of Iowa/Nebraska (with the local non-profit People Helping People).
Executive Director of Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, Founder of Serve2Unite, Published Author of “The Gifts of Our Wounds,” and Clinician specializing in utilizing a trauma-informed approach to treat survivors and perpetrators of assault, abuse and acts of violence. A native of Punjab, India, Pardeep Singh Kaleka grew up in Milwaukee, WI. As a former Police Officer and Educator in the city of Milwaukee, Pardeep understands some of the difficulties facing our communities locally and abroad. Both in his practice and out, Pardeep's passion remains one of healing and transformation and his hope is to engage communities in building healthy social fabric and communal identity. His father, Satwant Kaleka Singh, was president and founder of the Gurdwara Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI, when he was killed saving others on Aug. 5, 2012.
On July 20, 2012, Caren experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. Her first born son, Alex, was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting while heroically shielding his girlfriend from gunfire. The theater shooting left 12 dead and over 70 injured. Alex was only 24 years old.
In the days immediately following the murder of their first born child, Caren and her husband Tom founded NoNotoriety, a movement dedicated to reducing rampage mass murders by limiting the name and face of the killers in the media. Notoriety is a known and consistent motivating factor of rampage mass shooters.
In honor and memory of her son, Caren is also the founder and director of the Alexander C. Teves ACT-Foundation.org which awards scholarships to students in need to attend Humanex Academy, providing students with a specialized environment to build confidence, social skills, emotional strength and intelligence. Caren received the Courage Award from the National Center for Victims of Crime for her work on behalf of crime victims.
Anson Williams is best known for his Golden Globe nominated role on the series, “Happy Days.” For over the past two decades he has been an award-winning television director and writer; directing over 300 hours of television, including LA Law, Steven Speilberg’s “Sea Quest,” Pretender, Lizzie Maguire, Melrose Place, Charmed, 90210, Star Trek Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Hercules, Zena, HBO’s “All American
Murder” starring Christopher Walken, Profiler, and the award winning, Shailene Woodley starring hit, “Secret Life of the American Teenager.” For his writing, Anson has won the prized Humanitus Award, and was honored by the National Association of Student Leaders. Anson was on the National board of USO, and was instrumental in making the entertainment division profitable for the organization. Anson is also a successful entrepreneur, cofounding an international product company. Anson has been honored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for his expertise in product trademarking which included a speech by Anson along with the under Secretary Of Commerce. Anson inspired and supported by his famous uncle, Dr. Henry Heimlich, created the lifesaving product, Alert Drops, that has saved thousands
of lives from drowsy driving and exhaustion in the work place. Alert Drops has been honored by the United States Congress, California State Senate, and the city of Los Angeles. He has helped VictimsFirst behind the scenes and traveled to D.C. to speak with the head of the Dept. of Education and to Parkland after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Florida to share how to re-integrate traumatized children into a safe, learning environment. He did this based on first-hand experience with his own children in CA.
Jackie Williams is a mother of five who is a relentless advocate for safe learning in schools. After the toxic chemical PCB was found in their Malibu Middle and High Schools, she spearheaded an effort to get schoolkids to safety and reached out to Pepperdine University to donate a classroom to continue education away from the facilities. In doing so, she procured the first physical classroom in the United States ever to come out of the homeschool K-12 program. In only three weeks, Jackie was not only able to get school children away from the toxic environment and into a safe learning center but also put together a full curriculum. That school ran for over the two years as the school district worked to remove PCBs and rebuild. After the fires swept through the area years later, she and another mother also made sure kids were safe and continued education. She has advocated for safe learning environments for 24 years. Her work led her to meet with the head of the Dept. of Education in Washington, D.C. and also to Parkland, FL after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas where 14 students and three staff members were murdered. In 2019, she became The Malibu Times' recipient of the Mother of the Year Rosie Award to celebrate a mother who is a driving force for good in the community.
Caryn is an entrepreneurial leader specializing in integrated, strategic communications, public affairs and crisis management. She has worked with The White House, members of Congress, foreign dignitaries, former presidents, CEOs, athletes, and celebrities on the domestic and international stages.
In her current role, Caryn leads communications, reputation management, and thought leadership for Ascension’s largest market, which includes 24 hospitals, 100+ clinics, and 1,200+ clinicians.
Prior to that, she launched and led Caryn Kaufman Communications, a consulting agency specializing in marketing, communications, and event management. Her experience in both the public and private sectors positioned her well to lead the non-construction operations of ABC television’s award winning “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” Bridgeport, Connecticut episode. As communications director for Connecticut’s largest city, she successfully led the crisis communications response to situations ranging from taking office on the heels of a national corruption scandal, an I-95 bridge collapse, and municipal political scandals.
In New York City, Caryn successfully positioned We Media Inc. as the leading disability media outlet. She also directed the international media campaign for the Company’s sponsorship of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games and development of the Company’s Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Games website.
In Washington, D.C., she served as director of conferences for the National Leadership Coalition for Health Care Reform. Caryn developed her love for elite international sporting events while working with the Centennial Olympic Games (1996) and World Cup (1994). She began her career in tourism marketing for the State of Connecticut.
She is a graduate of Clark University, The Campaign School at Yale, FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, and Leadership Greater Bridgeport. Caryn is humbled to serve on the Victims First Leadership Council, as a spokesperson for victims of mass murders, and to have played a role in the establishment the National Compassion Fund. She also is a professional pianist.
Jasmine is a marketing executive with core expertise in all facets of entertainment communications and brand strategy and an expert advancing business goals for public, private, and non-profit organizations. She has proven expertise in experiential marketing, promotional partnerships, media training, digital/social platforms, talent and media relations, award campaigns, crisis management and event production.
She's also a motivated, innovative leader with a consistent track record spearheading successful programs driving consumer and employee engagement for Fortune 100 companies. She has loyal, longstanding contacts and relationships with consumer, business and trade media.
Jasmine is also an experienced communications professional with senior leadership roles at Walt Disney Studios, DreamWorks Studios/Amblin Partners, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences/The Oscars. She currently serves as advisor to Baobab Studios. She has a long history of developing and executing global marketing communications strategies, always with an eye toward innovation and imagination.
Jasmine is a PR consultant with her own company, AshTam LLC, which provides strategic counsel to clients, including the city of Los Angeles, and the producers of the Oscars.
Nathaniel has been practicing law for the past 33 years, primarily as a litigator and trial lawyer in constitutional and civil rights cases. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1987 and was admitted to practice law in New York State in 1988. While in law school, he was a member of the Brooklyn Law Review and served as a Notes Editor in his third year of law school.
After law school, he worked as an associate for six years in the litigation department at Paul, Weiss, Rikfind, Wharton and Garrison. As an associate at Paul Weiss, he worked on various types of complex litigation, including securities fraud, antitrust, trademark, and civil rights.
After leaving Paul Weiss, he opened his own law practice, which he has developed over the past 25 years. He has been primarily involved in litigation and trials with an emphasis on civil rights and employment discrimination litigation in state and federal courts on behalf of persons who assert that their constitutional or civil rights have been violated, oftentimes by governmental agencies or large institutions.
He is a member of the New York County Lawyers Association and the New York chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association. He is admitted to practice law in the following federal courts: Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York, the Northern District of New York, the Second Circuit, the Fourth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, the Tenth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.
He is committed to working for those who ordinarily lack the resources or power to protect and to assert their rights against large intuitional interests.
Paige Gold is an attorney/MBA with broad knowledge of business and entertainment law. She began her professional life in the nation’s capital, working in public affairs before moving to Los Angeles and entering the entertainment industry, ultimately opening her own media and entertainment law practice.
Paige’s Washington, D.C. pre-law background encompasses positions in politics, public policy, and an early stint as a feature writer at Washingtonian Magazine. Along the way, she earned an MBA at George Washington University.
In Los Angeles Paige held production-development positions with several independent film companies and with ABC Television before entering Southwestern Law School. After graduating and passing the bar exam, Paige practiced business law in Los Angeles for six years before earning a Master of Law degree (LLM) in media and entertainment law, then expanding her practice to those areas. A member of both the California and DC bars, Paige advises creative professionals (writers, producers, directors and designers), businesses and nonprofit organizations concerning contracts, copyright and trademark law, personnel issues, business negotiations and other matters.
Dr. Dan Eller
Dr. Dan Eller (B.S. California State University, Northridge, 1984; M.P.H., 1987; Ed.D. University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010) is a Professor Emeritus of Public Relations in the Journalism Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dan has twenty-five years of industry experience in Public Relations in the public sector with the State of California, authored and co-authored five juried journal articles, one book chapter, and presented twelve juried research papers at academic conferences.
Christine's 32 year-old son, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen was murdered at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL on June 12, 2016. It would take her 33 hours to learn that her son – along with his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero – was among those killed. As a result of her son’s death, Christine became a public spokesperson for her son’s life and is currently working to remedy the injustices that contributed to his death and the death of 48 others (99% of whom were minorities). Christopher, whose paternal grandparents are 100% Japanese and met while imprisoned in a WWII Japanese Internment Camp, earned his Masters in Clinical Psychology and was a practicing, licensed mental health therapist at the time of his death.
Christine is a Detroit native who worked for over 10 years as a Michigan State Trooper. Her first job, however, was breaking the glass ceiling as one of the only women working as a pipefitter for the local gas company and going out on emergency crew calls. Emboldened by a strong sense of justice, Christine would go on to earn a law degree. She is now a licensed attorney in both Michigan and Florida, where she moved to continue in the legal field as a Public Defender and a Civil Dependency Counselor representing indigent defendants in criminal and child dependency actions. She also earned a psychology degree from the University of South Florida and taught law at a career college. In addition to her victim advocacy work, Christine is a lifelong marathon runner and has participated in numerous races, including the Boston Marathon in 2012.
Cristina previously collaborated with others who are also on the Leadership Council after the mass shooting in Newtown, CT on Dec. 14, 2012 where her mother, Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung was murdered – one of six educators and 20 children taken that day. Following the shooting, Christina was the first to speak up to try to keep donations safe for the victims of that tragedy after non-profits swooped in to collect funds. Others now involved in VictimsFirst also joined with her to lend support. This mother of four was responsible, too, for bringing 9/11 Special Master Kenneth Feinberg in to help the Newtown families secure the donations meant for them. Christina has subsequently helped behind the scenes on other mass casualty crimes, educating officials about why one centralized fund is crucial to help prevent fraud. Cristina’s mother, Dawn, will forever be remembered as was one of the day’s heroes whose last act was to save her students.
Bryan Mosko joins VictimsFirst after spending six years in Asia working in live entertainment for AEG Presents. During his time at AEG, Bryan advocated for improved safety at live events while striving to provide a safe environment for people attending large-scale and community events. Collaborating with VictimsFirst, Bryan provides insight into how live events are planned, how to prevent future incidents, and support for fundraising endeavors.
Since relocating to Los Angeles, Bryan has worked, in conjunction with the Academy of Country Music, to raise money for those affected by Borderline Shooting in Ventura County. In addition, he has worked to help raise money for the homeless in Los Angeles through multiple charities via the LA Gives Back annual event.
Ricky Robertson has had the privilege to work with students from pre-K to 12th grade who have persevered in the face of trauma and adversity. Along with Victoria Romero & Amber Warner, Ricky is the co-author of the Corwin bestselling book, Building Resilience in Students Impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Whole Staff Approach. As a consultant and coach, Ricky supports schools and districts in developing multi-tiered social-emotional and behavioral supports that are trauma-informed and culturally responsive. Ricky’s deep respect for young people and the educators who serve them continue to inspire his work today.
Yvonne became a gun violence prevention activist after the death of her sister, Nina, in 2012. She advocates for survivors and victims of gun violence as well as advocating for stronger gun laws.
Since the night her cousin Akyra Monet Murray, 18, was killed in the mass shooting in 2016 inside the Pulse Nightclub, Tiara vowed to make sure Akyra would be remembered. Akyra graduated in the top 3% of her class, received a full-ride scholarship to Mercyhurst College for basketball. She was so good that she had scored over 1,000 points at West Catholic High School. Tiara was also shot twice that night in Orlando where 49 people were murdered (Akyra being the youngest), yet despite her wounds, she rose to take up the fight for those whose voices were silenced. She has worked to get the right politicians into office who care about communities and has advocated for common sense measures to stop gun violence. A Philadelphia native, Tiara is a makeup artist who has worked in TV and hosted her own radio show; she has a background in media and journalism. Tiara also founded the Global Activists Awards, which honors people who often work behind the scenes fighting for positive societal change because, as she says, “the fight is Global.”
Eric and Mary Kay Mace
Eric and Mary Kay Mace were unwillingly inducted into the fraternity of families who have survived the death of a loved one in a mass shooting. Their daughter, Ryanne, was the youngest of the five fatalities in the shooting that occurred on February 14th, 2008 in Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University. Since that time, both have become active in various ways.
Mary Kay has been a tireless advocate for common sense firearms legislation by volunteering with organizations such as It Can Happen Here, Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, among others. She has also spoken publicly about her experiences on many occasions, including testifying at Ilinois’ legislative committee hearings for the Firearms Restraining Order Act that was enacted in 2018, and has been frequently interviewed for both print and television media.
Eric has been involved in the formation of the National Compassion Fund and served as a victims advocate in the direction of donations resulting from the Henry Pratt shooting in Aurora, IL. He has also advocated for the adoption of family bereavement leave for U.S. workers. He also advocates for common sense gun legislation at the state and national level.
Together, Eric and Mary Kay created the Ryanne Mace Memorial Scholarship Fund at NIU Foundation. This fund is fully endowed and will provide monetary awards to individuals who are studying psychology with plans to become counselors. It is their belief that even though Ryanne is no longer with us, the work she was called to do still must be done if there is ever to be a hope of stopping mass shootings.
Bio coming soon.