Fourth grade teacher Irma Garcia, killed while protecting her students during a Texas school shooting massacre, is the focus of a GoFundMe campaign spotlighted by Bill Pulte - who urged his 3.2 million Twitter followers to donate money on Wednesday to offset funeral costs and help the victim's family.
Garcia, along with co-teacher Eva Mireles, were among the 21 killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a number that includes 19 children.
The school, which teaches only second through fourth graders according to its website, still has a homepage banner that reads, "Teacher Appreciation Week."
This mass shooting, allegedly committed by an 18-year-old suspect who recently purchased the semi-automatic rifle found at the crime scene, occurred 48 hours before the students would have been celebrating their last day of school before summer break.
John Martinez, 21, Garcia's nephew born and raised in Uvalde, tweeted from his account @fuhknjo, "My tia (aunt) did not make it, she sacrificed herself protecting the kids in her classroom, i beg of you to keep my family including all of her family in y'all's prayers , IRMA GARCIA IS HER NAME and she died a HERO. she was loved by many and will truly be missed."
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He told the Free Press, "Please know, and let people know on behalf of the family, I'm more than grateful and elated at the overwhelming love and support, whether it be the kind words, the donations or even just spreading the word, it means a lot to us."
Martinez sent a photo of his aunt standing with her son, dressed in his Marine uniform. It is inconceivable to family members that Garcia's son was trained for combat and his mother, a school teacher, died in a hail of gunfire, Martinez said.
"Stuff like this should not be happening in schools," he said. "It's wrong. It's not OK."
Pulte told the Free Press Wednesday that he noticed about $12,000 had been raised on the site within the first 10 hours and family reached out, hoping to reach their $30,000 campaign goal. After the Pulte tweet, donations immediately shot past $50,000 from nearly 2,000 donors.
The Free Press confirmed that the account has been verified by the site.
Pulte, reached at his home in Boca Raton, Fla., said he talked with Garcia's family Wednesday morning. He is known internationally for his Twitter philanthropy that benefits people in trouble.
'My kid's teachers'
"It's devastating," said Pulte, a philanthropist with deep ties to Detroit and a summer home in the Cheboygan area, where he's headed in June.
"I thought of some of my kid's teachers when I looked at the lady's photo," he said. "We've got to use the full force of Twitter Philanthropy to take care of her. This money all goes to her family. People want to take care of other people."
Pulte, who uses Twitter to personally donate to people in need, also uses the social media platform to spotlight bigger causes. He declined to say how much he donated to Garcia. His gifts have ranged from $10 to $50,000 in the past.
"The majority of gifts come from our teammates," he said.
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Comments in English and Spanish on the GoFundMe donations page are peppered with #teampulte, reflecting the many people who follow Pulte's lead during times of tragedy.
"Much like the Oxford, Michigan shooting, we're trying to use social media to immediately fundraise for people in crisis," he said. "We are using the power of millions of teammates to quickly fundraise for this teacher's funeral."
Donors from throughout the U.S. included prayers and hope for healing on the contribution page. Garcia was remembered for her kindness and generosity.
Her personal page on the school website said she was "so excited" about this school year, her 23rd at Robb Elementary and fifth teaching beside Mireles.
In 2019, Garcia was one of 19 San Antonio-area teachers named a finalist for a Trinity University prize that recognizes excellence in teaching, according to NBC News.
Garcia's nephew Steven Anthony Martinez, 27, of San Antonio is a native of Uvalde and told the Free Press that his family is grateful for the donations.
"We're super appreciative," he said.
Now Garcia's husband, four children and extended family are planning funeral services, along with the families of 20 other victims. The teachers were recovered shielding the bodies of the young children, according to news reports.
The Free Press confirmed that families have set up a series of verified GoFundMe campaigns for shooting victims and the community and are in the process of verifying others.
In the afternoon, Pulte tweeted a plea for 10-year-old Tess Mata after meeting the goal for Garcia. He received a direct message request on Twitter from the child's sister.
Pulte tweeted immediately. Within two hours, the campaign had reached $13,000 of its $25,000 goal.
And donations kept pouring in.
By early afternoon Wednesday, verified campaigns for:
Irma Garcia had reached $55,326 of a $30,000 goal
Xavier Lopez, 10, the first child identified, had reached $92,709 of a $17,000 goal
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10, had reached $25,709 of an $18,000 goal
Los Verdes Supporter Group of Austin had raised $56,287 of $65,000
VictimsFirst had raised $1,038,010 of $2 million (increased from a $100,000 goal) for its Texas Elementary School Shooting Victims Fund
Fundraising sites for victims will be added as they're reviewed and verified. A link to help can be found here.
Robb Elementary posted a donation request on its homepage Wednesday afternoon. An account had been opened at First State Bank of Uvalde for the families of Robb Elementary, the school site said.
Also, checks payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund" may be mailed to 200 E Nopal St. Uvalde, TX 78801.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: GoFundMe for teacher Irma Garcia killed in Texas shooting passes goal