Pain has the power to tear us apart, but it can unite us as a family and as a nation. Now Sean Peacock and the entire team at JassGraphix are hoping to turn an unbelievable tragedy for dozens of families into something powerful to help bring them back together.
When the mother of one of the beautiful children killed in Uvalde, Texas, reached out to him about purchasing one of his memorial butterfly benches, he knew he had a chance to use his family’s pain from losing a sister in 2008 to help heal others.
Sean was raised to believe that God always has a plan and that God can use all things for his glory and for good. After losing his sister fourteen years ago Sean struggled to find that silver lining or see God’s plan. Now he knows God is about to use his family’s experience to help the families of Uvalde, Texas.
Sean is the owner and creative force behind a small-town graphic arts business. He has watched his business grow and prosper through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of long nights and days of hard work. So, making memorial items is certainly not new to him, he has been doing that for over twenty-five years. He understood the need people have to remember those they love and he created a line with that in mind. However, as with most things in life, we can never fully understand something until we experience it first hand.
The death of his sister Donna changed everything.
Sean has always been an artist at heart and like most artists he felt the need to express his grief through his work. He also wanted to do anything he could to help his parents, especially his mother. So he did what he does best, create art. His wooden memorial butterfly bench was the end result.
Like the rest of us, Sean watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded within the walls of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. He, like many others, had never heard of Uvalde, Texas, or Robb Elementary but like most of our nation and the rest of the world, he was devastated by the loss of those nineteen children and two teachers.
When he read the message from a mother requesting information about ordering a memorial butterfly bench, he knew God put this in his life for a reason. Little did he know that this one small thing would grow and grow in a way that he never thought possible.
The mother that sent him a message about ordering a bench had not identified herself as being one of the parents from Uvalde but Sean had a gut feeling that she was connected. When he researched the child’s name, sadly, he was correct; Makenna Lee Elrod Seiler was indeed one of the children killed that day. Heartbroken is the best way he can describe what he felt at that time.
On May 31, 2022, Sean shared a screen shot of the message he received from the mother inquiring if he would give her a discount if she ordered two benches instead of one, on his personal social media page. When his friends read this message, and realized that one of the Uvalde parents wanted to order a bench, members of his community started offering to help with the cost. He watched as one or two comments turned into an outpouring.
People were not only commenting, they were sending him private messages, emails, texts, and calling him personally. His friends, neighbors, and community wanted to help. This had gone far beyond an outpouring of sympathy; this was quickly becoming a movement.
Sean already decided he would do whatever it took to get this mother the two benches she wanted and at cost. However, based on the outpouring online, he may not be doing so all on his own. He quickly realized the people in his hometown wanted to help. In many cases, they said they needed to help.
The senseless tragedy in Uvalde left everyone in Eastman and around the world feeling a range of emotions. But the one feeling other than heartbreak, that everyone seems to have in common, is the feeling of helplessness. This project gave people a way to feel useful and that they were doing something, no matter how small, to help these grieving families.
Helping others is often healing. And many in Eastman and Dodge County saw a correlation between themselves, their communities and the small Texas town that had been rocked by this tragedy. They wanted to do anything to show that they cared.
Sean decided that the best way for others to donate was to start a GoFundMe account. This account was created for the express purpose of paying for the materials and workers needed to make a memorial butterfly bench for each of the Uvalde victim’s families. It was a leap of faith and he prayed that the goal would be reached before the time limit.
On June 2, 2022 Sean went live on Facebook from his shop. He gave an update about the benches and funding. He shared the gofundme link in the comments and asked people to please share the post and link. That live was viewed almost two thousand times and shared over twenty. While that may not seem like a lot in the social media world, it was huge for this small town.
Sean had emphasized that any amount, no matter how small, would be appreciated. But what touched many was the fact that he said that if you couldn’t afford to donate, he would only ask that you pray for the loved ones of the victims and for their small town. Prayers, he said, were just as important, if not more so, than money.
The goal of $20,000 was met and surpassed within two days. The citizens of his small hometown and surrounding counties had dug deep and gave whatever they could afford. Sean was truly blown away by the outpouring of love from his small town. He would be able to make a bench for every family and it would not cost them anything.
But now the real work had to begin.
This work was not just physically building the benches it was also getting in touch with each family. And while that may seem like a simple task in this day and age, it was not.
While Sean was busy trying to make contact through Makenna’s mom, each of the victim’s families were planning and holding funerals. The citizens of Uvalde, Texas were busy trying to hold each other up as these precious lives were laid to rest.
Sean will tell you that mere words cannot fully describe the gut wrenching pain these families are living with. He knows this because he has spoken with either a family member or the mother or father of every victim. These calls were heartbreaking for Sean but also necessary.
Through every call and with every tear, a picture of the lives of each victim came into focus. They were no longer just a name on a list and their loved ones were no longer strangers. Bonds have been formed during this process that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
Sean and his team of dedicated employees got right to work. It was hot, tiring, and labor intensive but everyone at JassGraphix was committed to making these benches a reality.
It can’t be emphasized enough that Sean does not see this project as being about him in any way. He has said from the beginning that he was blown away by the amount of people who offered to help and can’t fully express how grateful he is to everyone who has contributed in any way to this project.
With the benches complete, the only question that remained was how to get the benches to each family. Sean knew that shipping these benches was not what he wanted to do. He wanted to meet with each family and give them their bench in person. He was fully prepared to fund the trip to Uvalde all on his own. Fortunately, that didn’t end up being the case.
Sean also wanted his hometown and those who contributed to the benches, to see the benches in person. While a picture on social media is nice, it cannot match the emotional impact of seeing the benches in person.
Sean attends church at Lakeside Assembly in Eastman, GA. He is on their Live Steam Media team and has a close relationship with his pastor, Rev. Tyler Kirkley. Together, through much prayer and discussion, Pastor Kirkley and Sean organized a Community Wide Eastman Day of Prayer for Uvalde/Bench Mission.
On Saturday, July 30, 2022, Sean and his staff will set up the completed benches in Eastman’s new outdoor venue for the public. The citizens of Dodge and surrounding counties are invited to come at 6:00 PM to view and pray over the benches.
When the prayer service is over, the benches will be loaded back onto a U-Haul truck to begin their journey to Uvalde, Texas. A member of Sean’s church, Mr. Ron White and his son, Cody, will be taking turns driving straight through from Eastman, GA, to San Antonio, Texas. Sean and Pastor Kirkley will fly out of Atlanta to San Antonio to meet Mr. White. Together they will continue the journey with the benches to Uvalde.
A community wide prayer service will be held on August 1, 2022, in the Uvalde Town Square. Starting on August 2, 2022, the benches will be delivered privately to the families. In addition, each family will not only receive their bench but they will also receive an outdoor memorial yard sign featuring a picture of their loved one along with their name, their date of birth and their date of death. Each sign also features the saying Forever in Our Hearts. Sean has also made duplicates of these signs that will be given to the City of Uvalde to use in a memorial that they will establish at a later date.
Above all, we are thankful to everyone who has prayed for Sean, his team, and the families of the victims. It cannot be stressed enough how thankful Sean, his team, and the victims families are for the love, kindness, and consideration shown to them during this difficult time.
We only ask that you continue to pray for our team as they travel to Uvalde and for the families and community as they continue to struggle with this unimaginable loss. May God bless and keep you all.
It would be Impossible to thank everyone that has played a part in this memorial bench project, so please forgive us if we have missed anyone it was not intentional.
First and foremost, we would like to thank the citizens of Dodge and surrounding counties. Without your generous donations none of this would be possible. We can’t wait to share the details of our trip with you.
A special thanks to Spence Barron and the City of Eastman, for allowing us to use the outdoor venue and for providing the U-Haul that will be used to transport the benches to Uvalde.
In addition to the benches and signs, lovely white crosses have been provided for each family through The Cross Ministry Factory by John and Libby Hicks. Also each family will receive a special pillow designed by the great people at Sailor Kate Ministry and sewn by Mrs. Tammy Manus and Sherry Manus. Thank you to Ryals Outfitters VIP Group for donating the gift bags for the pillows.
We would also like to thank Averitt shipping for their $1,000 dollar donation to the project. To Coca-Cola for donating drinks and Martha Sheldon Flowers and Events for donating decorations for the prayer service in Eastman. We would also like to thank Mr. Ed Burch for donating the sound equipment for the service as well.
Special thanks to Greg Grantham, Quint Bush, and all of the staff at Big Wuff Radio for all of the support and coverage of this project.
Also, we are grateful to The Harris Ranch in Uvalde, Texas for hosting our team.
Without question, a deep gratitude is extended to the staff of JassGraphix for their hard work and dedication to not only the company but to this project. None of this would have been possible without our amazing team.
(Sean Peacock, Sissy Rowell, Robby Wallace, Hayley Jo Blackburn, Kenny Trawick, Kaitlin Harrington, Angie Burch, Zachary Henderson)
Article by: Angie Burch
Media by: Zachary Henderson
Editing: Jonathan Sheffield