The text that started a foundation of community and safety.
Since 2006, The I Love U Guys Foundation (ILUGF) has been on a mission to restore and protect the joy of youth. Ellen and John-Michael Keyes started the foundation after losing their daughter, Emily, during the Platte Canyon High School shooting. Emily sent a text to her parents that day saying, “I love u guys.” Soon after, Ellen and John-Michael Keyes turned their focus to bringing together schools, families, communities, government entities and other organizations in an effort to increase the safety of students and staff.
The foundation focuses on crisis-response, recognizing that crises will happen, and the correct response is crucial. The weight of this fact helps to carry out the programs’ importance and advancement. Key stakeholders are constantly evaluating and marking areas for growth through a consistent dialogue. Making relationships and community building an essential part of who ILUGF is. By bringing these thought-leaders together, a key area for growth was identified by the Foundation. The communication between all communities during times of crisis needed to be further inspected and developed into actionable steps.
Through the collaboration of first responders, school districts, psychologists, families, and students, ILUGF developed a series of ever-evolving programs and training events. These programs for crisis response and post-crisis reunification are now implemented in over 40,000 schools, agencies and organizations across the globe. The programs include the Standard Response Protocol (SRP) and the Standard Reunification Method (SRM). The goal of the SRP is to utilize a specific vocabulary that also allows for great flexibility so it can be put into effect in any given crisis situation. It involves 5 specific actions that can be performed during an incident: hold, secure, lockdown, evacuate, and shelter. With the SRM, reunification is the first step to recovery. This protocol, when predetermined and practiced, is to ensure nothing further complicates an already chaotic, anxiety-filled scene. Through events like The Briefings, hosted twice a year, the Foundation focuses on exploring small and large-scale crises, threat management, learned lessons, and program training.
Emergency Planner for ILUGF, Dan Rector, finds great meaning in working for the next generation to come, as educating others on critical thinking begins at home with his own two children. Speaking on the foundation’s mission, he says, “if it’s going to help us protect our kids and make them safer, and give them the skills to be safe, we’re going to do everything we can to help out.”
Allison Jones, the ILUGF communications manager, speaks of the programs and events highly:
“Everyone here has such unique stories and unique experiences. So hearing from them all and learning from everyone is just such a blessing and such an honor. It really just drives home why we do this [. . . ] and confirms that what we do is important and special.”
This year’s Winter Briefings, hosted in February, brought together a variety of experts, survivors, and advocates to share knowledge, lived experiences, and lessons learned. Speakers included Frank DeAngelis, principal of Columbine High School, Brenna Morse of Safe and Sound Schools, and Theresa Campbell, the CEO of the International Center for Digital Threat Assessment (ICDTA). Community is integral when it comes to preparedness and education, which is why their events include speakers who have direct experience. By sharing practical strategies, the Foundation hopes to give participants actionable steps and plans to take with them after the event.
Briefings participant Susan Wagner, Executive Administrative Manager at the Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, noted that the exercises engaged critical thinking specific to their building and particular staff, and praised this as being most helpful in identifying their school’s next steps in increasing safety for their students.
“[. . .] we must be aware of how to act in these cases. The I Love U Guys Foundation has very simple protocols that can be shared for all the schools. We must know these and how to act [. . .] It’s extremely important to have this training with the teachers, the students, everybody–the parents—so they don’t make the situation worse.”
– Cláudio Luiz De Souza \ Briefings Participant from Brazil
Born from tragedy, John-Michael and Ellen Keyes have created a community focused on school safety through collaboration. With these programs, and the talented, dedicated people who facilitate them, the foundation is able to host trainings and events that translate the teachings into powerful stories that stick. With this type of heartfelt collaboration and deep discussions, the ILUGF has brought hope and action to mitigate the traumatic effects of a reality we face—crisis isn’t a choice, response is.