Area joins to support Franklin Regional victims

Maria Debone didn't see the stabbings at Franklin Regional Senior High School, but she walked through the aftermath, and two days later she struggled to make sense of the experience, her mother said.

At a loss for how to help her 16-year-old daughter cope with what until Wednesday seemed like an unfathomable event, Cheri Debone -- and about two dozen others -- attended a community meeting Friday aimed at brainstorming ways to move on.

Across the school district, and in some neighboring communities, residents spoke Friday of selling T-shirts to support scholarships for victims, wearing a rival school's colors in a show of solidarity and organizing events aimed at helping not only the injured students and security guard but also the family of suspect Alex Hribal, 16.

"This is not going away," Trista Lucas, who moderated one community meeting, told those gathered at the Murrysville SportZone Friday afternoon.

Some spoke of organizing a "church crawl" for high school students in the area to find a way to pray. A woman from Hebron United Presbyterian Church in Penn Hills suggested baking cookies and delivering tins of them to each classroom when students return to Franklin Regional. Another woman offered to donate a temperament analysis for interested students.

Few plans were finalized. But the SportZone, where two of the stabbing victims play dek hockey and were scheduled to play their first game in the adult league on the day of the stabbings, will offer free skating tonight for Franklin Regional students and staff.

While parents and business members discussed those plans, a local pizza distributor and a T-shirt company owner worked together to make T-shirts as part of a fundraiser for Franklin Regional students.

From the moment news of the stabbing began to spread on Wednesday, Jim Fox Jr. of Fox's Pizza Den, which operates a distribution center in Murrysville, started thinking about what he could do to help the victims.

Mr. Fox got together with Eric Hanchey, who runs a T-shirt company called Fancy Fox Custom Embroidery out of the back of the Fox's warehouse, and they quickly designed a shirt that said "FR Proud" with the Panther logo on the front. The back of the shirt says "We will never forget" with the date of the attack, "4-9-14." Student and community volunteers spent Thursday and Friday making them, and thousands have already sold.

"What we'd like to be able to do is give the victims a scholarship," Mr. Fox said. "Depending on how much money we raise, we'll just divide it by all the victims and give a scholarship."

Mr. Hanchey's daughter, Marissa, is a sophomore at Franklin Regional. He said he intends to sell the shirts for a year.

"I think we can go over $1 million, I do," Mr. Hanchey said. "I can't wait. We'll cut each of them a check for $50,000. I want to do something great for these kids."

The shirts are not just selling big in Murrysville. Jeannette and Mt. Lebanon were among the communities that purchased an order of 400 shirts on Friday.

Mr. Hanchey said that the Kiski Area High softball team plans to wear the shirts during a Saturday game against Franklin Regional to show its support for the victims.

Students in the neighboring Penn-Trafford High School share a sometimes-heated athletic rivalry with their peers at Franklin Regional but decided Friday to set that aside.

In light of the mass stabbings Wednesday, more than half of Penn-Trafford students wore their rival's blue and gold.

"We definitely have some heated rivalries in different sports programs," said Penn-Trafford principal Scott Inglese. "What's nice is that the kids can put those things aside and come together and say, hey, we're here for each other."

They intended Friday afternoon to deliver a banner saying "Penn-Trafford stands with you, stay strong Franklin."

"There are hundreds of signatures," Mr. Inglese said. "The vast majority of our kids were able to sign it."

He said he hoped it would be on display when Franklin Regional Senior High School reopens "so when the kids come to school they can see Penn-Trafford is in their corner."

Pittsburgh hit music radio station 100.7 Star began playing a Franklin Regional Senior High tribute, scheduled to loop every other hour through Sunday.

Night show host and assistant music producer Elista Burneisen said the station wove snippets of at least 20 calls from students, family and friends who phoned in Wednesday night into the song "Stay With Me" by British singer-songwriter Sam Smith.

This story was written by Liz Navratil based on her reporting and that of J. Brady McCollough, Rich Lord and Molly Born. First Published April 11, 2014 2:06 PM

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