Georgia man delivers 21 handmade memorial benches to families of Uvalde school shooting victims

·4 min read

For the past two months, Sean Peacock, a small business owner in Eastman, Georgia, and his team have worked overtime to make 21 custom memorial benches by hand, one for each of the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Over the weekend, the benches were driven in a donated U-Haul trailer over 1,200 miles from Eastman to Uvalde, where Peacock is now personally delivering them to each victim's family.

"These benches are just a little temporary, beautiful gift honoring their special, beautiful children," Peacock told "Good Morning America."

Referring to himself and the 21 families, he added, "We're forever connected."

Peacock, the owner of the graphic arts business Jass Graphix, said he had no connection to Uvalde prior to receiving an order inquiry in late May from April Elrod, the mother of 10-year-old Makenna Lee Elrod, one of the 19 students who died in the May 24 shooting, along with two of their teachers.

Peacock said the original inquiry requested more information about butterfly memorial benches he sells on Etsy, the first of which he made for his mom after his sister's death in 2008.

According to Peacock, Elrod did not identify herself as the mother of a Uvalde victim, but simply asked if the benches could be customized for the loss of a child, provided her daughter's name and asked if the $1,800 benches would be discounted if she purchased more than one.

Peacock said he went online and searched the words Elrod and Uvalde.

"Lo and behold, number one on the list, Makenna Lee Elrod, the same name that that momma used," he said. "When I discovered that, that was the beginning of it all."

PHOTO: Fourth-grader Makenna Lee Elrod, 10, in an undated family photo. Elrod was killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (Courtesy the family of Makenna Lee Elrod)
PHOTO: Fourth-grader Makenna Lee Elrod, 10, in an undated family photo. Elrod was killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (Courtesy the family of Makenna Lee Elrod)

Peacock said he posted about the order inquiry on his personal Facebook page, and without making any specific request, donations started coming to him from friends and family who wanted to pay for a memorial bench for Makenna.

MORE: Uvalde school shooting victim receives Girl Scout honor

Wanting to provide a bench for not just Makenna but each of the 21 victims, Peacock started a GoFundMe with a goal of raising $20,000.

Less than 48 hours after launching the GoFundMe, more than $23,000 had been donated.

"On the day of Makenna's funeral, I texted the mother and revealed to her what I did," recalled Peacock. "I told her, 'Your bench is paid for for your precious child, and so are 20 more.'"

PHOTO: Sean Peacock holds a photo of the 21 victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in front of the memorial benches he made in their honor. (Sean Peacock)
PHOTO: Sean Peacock holds a photo of the 21 victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in front of the memorial benches he made in their honor. (Sean Peacock)

Over the next several weeks, Peacock said he spoke with family members of each of the victims -- all fourth-grade students and their two teachers -- to learn more about them and their lives.

Then, he and his team began to make the benches by hand. Each features a photo at the center of the butterfly wings that form the back of the bench, and inscriptions from each family on the seat.

PHOTO: The memorial bench made by Sean Peacock for Robb Elementary School shooting victim Makenna Lee Elrod Seiler is pictured here. (Sean Peacock)
PHOTO: The memorial bench made by Sean Peacock for Robb Elementary School shooting victim Makenna Lee Elrod Seiler is pictured here. (Sean Peacock)

For a typical order, one bench may take as long as six weeks to complete, according to Peacock, but his team worked together to make all 21 in less time than that. In addition to a bench, each family is also receiving an outdoor memorial sign, duplicates of which will be given to the city of Uvalde to use in a community memorial, according to Peacock.

"There's a lot of labor that goes into this," said Peacock, adding that employees from all parts of his business volunteered their time to work on the project. "This is a very special, precious item in any situation."

PHOTO: JassGraphix employees make one of the 21 butterfly memorial benches made in memory of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting. (Sean Peacock)
PHOTO: JassGraphix employees make one of the 21 butterfly memorial benches made in memory of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting. (Sean Peacock)

In addition to Peacock's business, the whole town of Eastman also became involved in the project, with businesses and individuals donating everything from white crosses for each family to custom hand-sewn pillows for each bench.

On Sunday, the community gathered for a prayer service to pray over the benches before they were driven to Uvalde in a U-Haul truck that was paid for by the city, according to Rev. Tyler Kirkley, the pastor of Lakeside Assembly of God, where Peacock is a member.

PHOTO: Sean Peacock stands with the 21 memorial benches he created for the victims of the May 24, 2022, deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Sean Peacock)
PHOTO: Sean Peacock stands with the 21 memorial benches he created for the victims of the May 24, 2022, deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Sean Peacock)

Kirkley traveled with Peacock to Uvalde to personally deliver the benches to the victims' families.

"My prayer, my hope is that love will make a difference, and when they sit on these benches, they'll be reminded of a love that can change the world," said Kirkley.

"If you stick a light in a very dark place, it shines its brightest," he added. "That's what we want to do and that's what we want the world to see."

MORE: Texas man makes custom caskets for Uvalde school shooting victims

Peacock said he plans to stay in touch with each family he has spoken to, and said he hopes the kindness he and others have demonstrated shows the people of Uvalde that there is still good in the world.

PHOTO: Sean Peacock stands with his mom in front of the U-haul truck in Eastman, Georgia, that will carry the 21 memorial benches to Uvalde, Texas. (Sean Peacock)
PHOTO: Sean Peacock stands with his mom in front of the U-haul truck in Eastman, Georgia, that will carry the 21 memorial benches to Uvalde, Texas. (Sean Peacock)

"That's an act of evil that occurred out there," he said of the school shooting. "What happened in Eastman, Georgia, is the opposite of that. It was an act of love, of compassion, donation, consideration. This is a story continues to just be a love story."

Georgia man delivers 21 handmade memorial benches to families of Uvalde school shooting victims originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com