Sertic said that they had raised over $30,000 in cash donations and product donations like food, gift cards and toiletries for students.
Monday was not an easy day for thousands of Michigan State University students who returned to campus after the deadly shooting that took place there on February 13. Moms understood this that's why they were there to support the students, as reported by GoodMorningAmerica. The mothers stood outside the university holding signs offering free hugs for the students. It was the first day of the students on the campus after a gunman entered the East Lansing campus and killed three students and injured five others a few days ago.
When kids saw the signs with 'free hugs,' they became emotional and started crying. They're filled with gratitude, said Heather Sertic of Traverse City, Michigan. "What we heard most was, 'Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for making us feel safe.'" Sertic graduated from Michigan State University in 1999. On the day of the incident, she was on a call with her daughter, who is a Michigan State junior. They both had received text messages and alerts about an active shooter on campus.
She was on the call with her daughter the whole time. Meanwhile also checking in on her nephew, who is a freshman at the university. They both were safe, but Sertic explained that it was a "very scary ordeal" for all of them. Days after the shooting, Sertic herself had a tough time mentally and also knew that her daughter was anxious about returning to her classes.
Three days before the classes were about to resume, Sertic posted a message on a Facebook group of Michigan State parents from across the country. "I really felt strongly about doing something for all of the students because I knew there had to be others who felt very much the same as my daughter," Sertic said. "I threw an idea out to this parents' association group and said, 'What if we got together and set up a table and a tent and we had some snacks, whatever we can come up with, and we're just there to show the students we support them and we care for them? We can give them hugs if they want hugs.'"
Within hours, parents were ready to help in person. They were reaching out to businesses to donate to the cause. By Monday, Sertic said they had raised over $30,000 in cash donations and product donations like food, gift cards and toiletries for students. "There is absolutely no way that this could have been what it was without all of the other parent volunteers and all the businesses that jumped in," Sertic said. "The generosity and the amount of love and compassion that [everyone] showed in jumping in to support this really helped make this possible." Sertic said they might have reached out to 10,000 students on campus on Monday and kept hearing "'thank you' 2 million times."
The group does not only include parents of Michigan State students but also students' grandparents, siblings and university alumni. She said that the initiative helped the parents also. Sertic received text messages, phone calls and thank you cards from students' family members. "I think it's starting some of the healing processes for us all."
Sertic understands that the hugs and giveaways cannot fix the grief all students are feeling after losing three of their classmates and it won't simply "go back to normal." But she hopes the students realize that they have an "army of people" supporting them. She believes that it is all about "taking the damage that one person did and turning it into [something] positive from so many people."
Michigan State officials said this week that Berkey Hall and the MSU Union building, where the horrific incident happened, will remain closed for the rest of the school year. Also, all 300 classes will be moved to other locations on campus.