Photojournalist + Editorial Photographer



The Strength Behind Parkland Strong Benefit Concert

Getting through these last few weeks has been difficult to navigate. This is completely new for me, and for my community.  I was unable to give myself the time to even talk about what has gone on, what i've seen, what i've heard, I mostly was only able to do the one thing I was completely sure of. My go to coping method. Every chance I got, from location to location, I blasted the music. From long 7 hour drives to and from Tallahassee. Headphones in a Dunkin’ Donut's at 4 am while I edit these photos, and every night before bed. I let the music heal me.

It's amazing to me, the way this story extends. There are people involved in this that have absolutely no idea that they are. They don't know how they've talked us down, and completely calmed us down, or just kept us going. Over and over, I’d repeat the same song, sometimes it was simply just to keep me awake, other times it was my only company. And just so I can give you guys a more personal glimpse into my life, my song was Everyone Left by The Dangerous Summer. It felt good to me. It spoke to me way passed words and rhythm. That song will now forever live on as a marker for this period in my life, this sometimes unbearable process of documenting the aftermath of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. 

There are also so many involved in this and we're the ones completely unaware of it. And it is my goal to highlight these people, the ones working behind the scenes on behalf of all the victims, survivors, and families. Please meet Jeff Chabon (AEG), Von Freeman (104.3 The Shark), Pj Ryan (Broward Education Foundation), John O'Connell (104.3 The Shark), and Brett Russel (AEG), they are the team volunteering their time and resources to make the benefit concert ParklandStrong happen for this community. The way that this was put into the works was almost magical. All of them were already scheduled to have a meeting about another upcoming show they would be planning together, when the shooting happened. They immediately switched gears, and started the discussion on what they could do during this time. Once landing on the benefit concert, the very first decision made was that 100% of the proceeds would go to the Official Broward Education Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund. This means that everything from ticket sales, to concessions will be donated. But on top of all of that, the community involved in the making of this has rallied behind the cause, and have all agreed to work for free. From security guards, to police, to the production crew, lighting, all the way to the ticketing company not taking any fees. Other local businesses have also stepped up, one being Funky Buddha Brewery, donating beverages for concession.

"It's making it very easy for us to give 100% to this." Jeff says.

Which is something none of them have ever experienced before. It is unheard of in the industry. 

"It's allowing us to put everything aside and just focus on letting everyone have some fun here at Pompano Beach Amphitheater." - Von Freeman 

Everyone has really stepped up. Record labels all across the country are sending John merch and memorabilia from different artists, to include in a silent auction that will take place for those unable to attend the concert, but that still are eager to participate in some way. Local artists and musicians have also been pouring in requests to take part in the fundraiser. Everyone just wants to do something. A former Douglas graduate has asked to Dj, a current Douglas teacher along with her band has requested to play, and multiple other bands have been completely on board with donating their time and talent to the cause. 

Tickets have been priced at a reasonable $25.00, so that it is affordable for the students, but still enough to make a huge impact for the Douglas Fund. Once you purchase a ticket, you will also be given the opportunity to add additional money to donate, if you are interested. 

So much hard work is going into this. And I think we all need to take some time to recognize those that are putting in their own personal time and talents, while forfeiting any kind of compensation. 

"We can't thank these guys enough, we are just incredibly thankful, and humbled by the support, the compassion, and generosity that we've seen from them." Pj Ryan

Sometimes our actions are a huge part of the healing. The doing. The simple act of asking yourself "what can I do?" changes everything. Knowing that every aspect of this event will go towards benefiting those that need it the most, gives you the opportunity to do just that. 


As of right now New Found Glory, Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional and William Ryan Key of Yellowcard, are all signed up to perform. With more expected to be added and announced soon, for the May, 16th show.

Emilee McGovern Protection Status