SUN CITY CENTER — Millions of women marched on Washington. Thousands of teenagers rallied in Tallahassee and Tampa Bay.
And in Sun City Center, nearly 150 seniors held a demonstration for gun control on April 21, offering a simple but poignant message: Your grandparents care.
Seniors lined up along the south side of State Road 674, held signs protesting gun violence in schools, and urged legislators to ban assault weapons.
Plans for the rally began last February when Sun City Center resident Judy Kramer heard about more school shootings as she listened to the radio in her car.
The idea of some kind of demonstration came to her because she had been so touched by the courageous actions of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland.
"Those kids captured my feelings about this whole event," Kramer said. "My motivation was to let them know that what they are doing was being heard and approved of. These are our grandkids and they need to know that we seniors support them."
Kramer collected a group of her friends and they began making plans. They chose the community’s busiest road and one of its busiest intersections so drivers would see the messages. They reached out to local community organizations such as the Interfaith Council and the American Association of University Women, and contacted most of the local churches.
Then she hosted a "poster party" in her home and using her kitchen table as an easel, she and eight members of her "committee" and even her 6- and 9-year-old granddaughters had fun making more than 30 signs and posters that would be distributed throughout the crowd they hoped would show up for the event.
"I was worried about what the reaction would be from the general public. Would there be a counter demonstration?" Kramer wondered. "But I was amazed by the positive response we got from the majority of the people that drove by our picket line. So many people honked and gave us thumbs up. That made it all worthwhile."
People who joined in the rally obviously agreed with Kramer and wanted to help her champion the cause of common sense gun control.
"I’m just tired of waking up and hearing about one more child dying needlessly day after day after day," Sun City Center resident Ann Herrilko said. "I thought something might happen after Sandy Hook, but nothing has been done. These kids from Parkland have been a catalyst for change."
Connie Murray also felt inspired by the courageous survivors from Parkland.
"It’s an atrocity that we have kids who fear for their lives when they go to school every day," Murray said.
SouthShore Church of Christ pastor Tim Shirley is a gun owner, but attended the rally to call for more legislation.
"I’m a gun owner, but nobody needs an AR-15 to go hunt Bambi," Shirley said. "We’ve got to do something to stop the kind of insane violence that’s happening in our country. The second amendment can be protected, but we’ve also got to protect our children. Period."
Kramer spoke with a reporter from WUSF-FM 89.7 prior to the march, and read a heart-felt letter that captured her sentiments.
Watching and hearing your eloquence has inspired all of us who are older than you but can still learn from you. We encourage you not to give up, not to lose your enthusiasm. We admire the strength of your voices. Your passion may be what it takes to stop this gun violence and from our hearts we, your parents and grandparents, thank you.
Contact Kathy Straub at [email protected]