As Emily Rowley handed out valentines to students on Feb. 14, she had no idea in that in a few hours she’d be hearing about one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.
“I remember coming home on Valentine’s Day and having that on the news, and how sad it was,” said Rowley, a senior at Spanish Fork High School. “I can’t imagine that happening here.”
That Valentine’s Day, every student at Spanish Fork High received an origami lily and chocolate as part of a junior’s Eagle Scout project.
Sterling Brinkerhoff thought the project was done for the year then, but then the project just kept growing.
The hashtag #LiftEveryone was created after the project, which was spurred after a student died by suicide last year. Brinkerhoff has since been recognized by the Spanish Fork City Council.
Valentine’s Day originally ended with Brinkerhoff receiving a basket of valentine’s from grateful students, six of which wrote they’d been considering taking their lives.
Brinkerhoff didn’t want a single student to feel alone on Valentine’s Day. Now, he wants the survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting to feel the same.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, students worked to fold 3,600 origami lilies at Timpanogos High School in Orem and Spanish Fork High School to send to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which lost 17 people during the Feb. 14 shooting.
Dozens of students sat at tables Wednesday at Spanish Fork High School as they passed the red and white lilies down an assembly line. More than 100 Orem students had folded lilies the night before.
Brinkerhoff sat near the end of the line, where he curled the petals on the origami lilies he designed.
“We hope it will help them to recover from a tragic instance that was different from what happened here in Utah,” Brinkerhoff said.
The lilies used to take 15 minutes for him to fold. He can now do one in two minutes.
Local companies donated chocolate for the Valentine’s Day project, and the Benjamin teen received donated paper for the Parkland project, along with $100 to go towards shipping the 3,600 lilies to Florida.
He was contacted by a teacher at Timpanogos High School following the original project about doing a flower event there. Brinkerhoff then attempted contacting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but had difficulties getting through.
Then, the Petty family, who lost their 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, in the shooting, was in Utah to help push to designate April as a month of kindness in the state. Brinkerhoff reached out to the family through social media, and the family has agreed to pass the lilies out at the school if Brinkerhoff can ship them to Florida.
Being in contact with a family who lost their child on that day has brought a new realness to the current project.
“It definitely made doing this project a lot more meaningful,” Brinkerhoff said.
At the other end of the table, Rowley and Annalyse Lindholm, both seniors, were doing the first folds on the flowers.
Rowley first got involved with the project when she handed out the lilies on Valentine’s Day to people who weren’t expecting anything on the couple-dominated holiday.
“For you to walk in and hand something to someone who wouldn’t have gotten anything, to see the smile on their face, it was amazing,” Rowley said.
Lindholm received one of the gifts that day and joined the group Wednesday to be on the other end of things.
“We are just folding flowers,” Lindholm said. “Hopefully it’ll brighten their day.”
To donate towards the shipping costs of the flowers, contact Brinkerhoff at (801) 371-2278.