It’s been over two months since 19 children and two teachers were senselessly gunned down in Uvalde, Texas. Since then, the incident has fueled both outrage and controversy. But it’s also triggered a flood of support from around the world, including the small town of Eastman, Georgia, where a small business owner has been working around the clock to make 21 custom memorial benches — one for each of the shooting victims.

The man behind the project is Sean Peacock

According to ABC News, Peacock owns and operates a graphic arts business called Jass Graphix, which specializes in custom metalwork and wooden signs.

 

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Scroll through the company’s website, and you’ll find everything from personalized license plate frames to family name signs to display at home.

 

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But the most unique item of them all are the custom benches that Peacock has become known for.

Customers call them “Butterfly Benches”

The first one was made in 2008 for Peacock’s own mother, as a way to pay tribute to his late sister, Donna. It was carved in the shape of a beautiful butterfly, with Donna’s photo and a quote imprinted on the front.

Eventually, Peacock began making other custom memorial benches for people who were mourning loved ones. But in late May, he was moved beyond words when a woman named approached April Elrod reached out to him.

 

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Elrod’s request was simple but heartbreaking

She wanted a butterfly bench made in memory of her 10-year-old daughter, Makenna, who had recently passed away.

Apparently, Elrod had come across the benches on Etsy, where Peacock also lists his items, and was struck by the butterfly design. Makenna reportedly loved butterflies, and as her mother recently told ABC News, she was even laid to rest in a purple dress adorned with butterflies.

Now Elrod sees butterflies as something of a symbol

“When we go visit her at the cemetery, there’s always butterflies around,” the mother told ABC. “We’ve had butterflies in our cars and our houses, everywhere we go.”

They’ve become so meaningful to Elrod that she’s even started to create a butterfly garden in her yard.

“I saw that butterfly bench and I thought that would be perfect [for the garden], somewhere to go sit and think about Makenna and talk to her,” she explained.

Elrod never mentioned the reason for her daughter’s passing

Instead, she merely asked if she could get two customized benches in memory of her daughter — one for herself, and one for Makenna’s father.

Still, something about Elrod’s request led Peacock to Google her last name.

“Lo and behold, number one on the list, Makenna Lee Elrod, the same name that that momma used,” he told Good Morning America. “When I discovered that, that was the beginning of it all.”

“Makenna” turned out to be 10-year-old Makenna Lee Elrod, who lost her life on May 24 when a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. She was only in the fourth grade.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by Elrod’s sister, Allison McCullough, Makenna was “beautiful, funny, smart, and amazing.”

“She had the biggest heart and loved her family and friends so much,” her aunt recalled, adding that Makenna’s smile would “light up a room.”

After learning Makenna’s story, Peacock felt compelled to do something

As a father himself, his heart ached for Elrod, as well as for all of the parents who lost children in Uvalde. He even posted about the order request on his personal Facebook page, sharing the moving story with friends and family members.

 

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Before he knew it, donations started flooding in from people wanting to cover the cost of the benches, which retail for $1,800 each.

But he wanted to go even further.

Soon, Peacock started a GoFundMe page of his own

His goal? To raise $20,000 so that each of the Uvalde victims could be honored with their own bench.

Remarkably, he reached his goal within 48 hours.

“On the day of Makenna’s funeral, I texted the mother and revealed to her what I did,” Peacock told GMA. “I told her, ‘Your bench is paid for for your precious child, and so are 20 more.'”

 

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To customize each piece, Peacock personally reached out to the family members of each victim. He wanted to learn more about their lives, and asked for a photo they would like to display.

Then, he got to work.

Over the next few weeks, Peacock and his team worked tirelessly
Typically, just one bench can take six weeks to complete, but the dedicated team of workers — which was largely made up of volunteers — managed to craft 21 different benches in even less time.

 

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“There’s a lot of labor that goes into this,” said Peacock. “This is a very special, precious item in any situation.”

By early August, the benches were finally finished, and community members gathered together in Eastman for a prayer service. Then, all 21 of the benches were loaded into a U-Haul paid for by the city, and driven to Uvalde.

 

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Once there, Peacock hand-delivered each bench himself

He was joined by Rev. Tyler Kirkley, the pastor of Peacock’s church, Lakeside Assembly of God.

 

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“My prayer, my hope is that love will make a difference, and when they sit on these benches, they’ll be reminded of a love that can change the world,” Kirkley told GMA.

 

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“If you stick a light in a very dark place, it shines its brightest,” he continued. “That’s what we want to do and that’s what we want the world to see.”

 

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