BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
OCEANFRONT – The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at historic de Witt Cottage on Atlantic Avenue is giving pins to its visitors as a reminder that the victims of the May 31 mass shooting still need support.
The pins are free, but the museum wants people to know they can still make a difference by donating to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund, which is administered by the United Way, either through the museum or directly to the fund itself.
The museum partnered on the pins, which show a black ribbon with the hash tag #VBSTRONG, with Shore Gallery and Design, which operates the new gift shop at the museum and a location at the Hilltop Shops.
Twelve people died and four were wounded during the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday, May 31. It was, until recently, the worst mass shooting in the U.S. this year. Donations are welcome in person or online via the museum website, awhm.org.
“We will make sure all the proceeds go directly to the United Way,” Lynn Hightower, director of the museum, said during an interview at the museum located at Atlantic Avenue and 12th Street on the Boardwalk.
“Everyone who comes in is encouraged to take a pin,” Hightower added.
“For the most part, people think it is awesome,” said Alex Fountain, a sales associate in the gift shop, speaking of the pins. “Or people didn’t even realize the connection.”
“A lot of people who weren’t here on the 31st don’t realize the connection,” Hightower said.
In a statement, the museum noted that one of its board members is Philip Davenport, a longtime public servant who retired as Virginia Beach’s public works director. Davenport, who knew many of the victims, and the board wanted to do something to ensure funds continue to come to the fund.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, Hightower addressed the Virginia Beach City Council about the effort during a meeting and passed out pins in the council chamber.
He urged people to continue to support the fund, and he pledged monthly donations himself in hopes others might do the same to keep helping victims and their families.
“There is so much more to do to aid them for their future needs,” Hightower said.
“Thank you for doing what you do, sir,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said. “You help make Virginia Beach great.”
Pins are available at the museum, 1113 Atlantic Avenue, and Shore Gallery and Design, Hilltop Shops, 1556 Laskin Road, Suite 138. The museum will mail pins to those who donate online at awhm.org/vb-tragedy. People can also donate directly to the fund via unitedwayshr.org/vabeach.
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