Painting project leads to initiative to send caravan to Uvalde from Killeen

Published: Jun. 4, 2022 at 9:17 PM CDT
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Killeen, Texas (KWTX) - Calls for more donations are being made from one Central Texas city.

What started off as a kind gesture for the people of Uvalde snowballed into a city-wide donation from Killeen.

“When you’re able to embody someone on a canvass, it for one second, kind of makes you feel so much closer to them,” said Vickie Valladares, a Killeen artist.

Initially, Valladares wanted to give away a painting of the 19 children and two teachers killed in the May 24 Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.

She is no stranger to works memorializing the dead. She is often commissioned to do portraits of people loved ones who have passed on.

So, when a cousin of hers asked for a painting to be sent to Uvalde, there was no hesitation.

“It makes it all the more real that these were actual lives that were lost, these were kids that never had a chance,” said Valladares.

She researched each of the children, the two teachers and a teacher’s husband. She made each child on the canvass easy to recognize for the parents it was intended for.

“At some point you get a glimpse into these kids lives and what made them, them,” said Valladares.

Before she started, she announced the painting idea on social media. That is where Nancy Rodriguez got involved.

“She’s my daughter-in-law,” said Rodriguez. “As a mother, I decided to support her in this endeavor and I was glad that we can actually work a community project together.”

Rodriguez noticed people wanted to send similar donations. One couple wanted to send a special wooden plaque and another person wanted to give Uvalde families thrown pillows with the victims photos on them.

So, she sought some help with getting all this to Uvalde, so she asked the city for help.

“When we were asked, could we help transfer all of these items,” Janell Lewis Ford, executive director of communications for Killeen. “We said, sure, sign us up.”

For all, the project is serving as a way to cope with the losses; helping others is helping them.

“When a child passes, it’s a loss for the entire community,” said Rodriguez. “You never know the potential of that child.”

And now the work is to make sure anyone who wants to send something can do so.

The group plans to leave for Uvalde with the gifts around 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 8, from New Life Apostolic Church in Killeen at 4712 E. Rancier Ave.

“It became a lot of people saying let’s go, and now we have this caravan,” said Valladares.

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