Sean Peacock, a small business owner in Eastman, Georgia, found a beautiful way to ease the burden of a grieving mother and a traumatized community more than 1,000 miles away.
Peacock is a graphic artist who builds everything from signs to furniture, sells his goods on Etsy as JassGraphixInc and customizes his work for every customer. In late May, he got a request from a woman who asked about his popular butterfly memorial benches and wondered about potentially getting one in memory of her 10-year-old daughter, Makenna Lee Elrod, who recently died.
The woman, April Elrod, was from Texas and asked if she might get a discount if she ordered two of his butterfly memorial benches, one for herself and one for Makenna’s father.
Over the years, Peacock has received many requests for these $1,500 pine benches, which include a laser-engraved photo of the person being honored, as well as a personalized quote. However, something about Elrod’s request and the girl’s name stuck with Peacock. When he did a quick search, he discovered the Makenna was one of the 21 victims of the Ross Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers on May 24, 2022.
“Lo and behold, number one on the list, Makenna Lee Elrod, the same name that momma used,” Peacock told “Good Morning America.” “When I discovered that, that was the beginning of it all.”
You can see Makenna’s photo, second from the left below, among the memorials placed outside the school in the days following the tragedy.
After making the connection, Peacock told “Good Morning America” he posted on Facebook about the unique nature of the order. Suddenly, people began leaving comments offering to help pay the woman’s bill. That’s when Peacock said he had the idea to make memorial benches for all 21 of the Uvalde shooting’s victims at no charge to the families.
To cover the costs of such a big job, the artist set up a GoFundMe page with a $20,000 goal. He said it only took 48 hours for that goal to be met and, as of Aug. 11, the fundraiser had raised more than $23,000.
“On the day of Makenna’s funeral, I texted the mother and revealed to her what I did,” Peacock told “Good Morning America.” “I told her, ‘Your bench is paid for your precious child, and so are 20 more.'”
It took nearly two months of work by Peacock and his team, but every child and teacher killed that day would have a gorgeous, lasting tribute to the difference they made in the lives of those who loved them. On July 11, he posted to GoFundMe that production on all 21 benches was finished. Before delivery to Texas, the benches were brought to Peacock’s church, where his faith community had a day of prayer to bless them.
Makenna’s mom, April Elrod, who unexpectedly started this entire outpouring of love, told ABC News that the connection between her family and Peacock evolved into a “blessing.”
“He and I’ve been talking since, and when I’m having a bad day, he just seems to be the one that messages and says, ‘You know, we’re praying for you,'” Elrod said. “[Makenna’s] story has brought people closer together. And, I mean, what more can you ask for?”