The music was upbeat, but the cause was anything but at a Sunday fundraiser for the family members of the survivors of the Capital Gazette shooting that cut short the lives of five newspaper employees.
Supporters contributed in excess of $10,000 at the event at Fado Irish Pub in Annapolis. Besides money collected from the entrance fee and silent auction, contributions included $2,500 from Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director.
Denisa Protami, reader rewards manager for the Baltimore Sun, put the event together.
“When this happened,” she said of the shooting, “it was hard for everybody. We own the Capital Gazette. We work with them all. They are family.”
Rather than sit back, Protami did what she knows best. She began contacting the people she knew through her work with the reader rewards program and put together a silent auction with 30 items. She found a few bands to perform, and then asked the owners of Fado if she could hold the fundraiser at their restaurant and bar. They agreed, and donated 20 percent of their day’s proceeds to the Capital Gazette Family Fund.
“I had to do something,” she said. “It’s my hometown. It’s people I know.”
The shooting didn’t have to happen, she said. “The most heartbreaking thing is that it wasn’t a surprise. The President of the United States is calling us the enemy.”
People “are just waiting. I think the whole country is just waiting” for the next mass shooting, she said.
Many of the people attending the event worked at a Maryland newspaper and continue to process how Jarrod Ramos of Laurel was able to blast his way through the newsroom. Earlier this week, he entered a not guilty plea to five counts of first-degree murder.
“Things are kind of tough for me. There is a huge hole in my heart. We are family,” said Paul Gillespie, a photographer at the Capital Gazette.
“I love that everyone is coming out to support us,” said Gillespie, who wore a Press On T-shirt. The Gazette presses are still rolling, he said.
Megan Shenton, 29, a former Gazette employee, attended the event to support both the newspaper and her former employer.
“It was devastating,” said Shenton. “It was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with in recent years just because I didn’t know how… so it was heartbreaking.”
Shenton’s replacement in her former job as a sales assistant was Rebecca Smith, one of the victims.
Shenton wanted people to know she appreciated how the community came together. “Obviously, it’s a tragedy, and it’s terrible, but hopefully some good can come for it,” she said.
Darlene Szczepanik, 42, volunteered to help with the silent auction. “Hopefully there’s a lot of people who turn out to support the cause, but more than that, hopefully this will raise awareness of what needs to be done to avoid this from happening in the future,” she said.
The Baltimore resident said she personally feels like better health care could prevent another mass shooting.
“It takes a truly troubled mind to commit an act that’s so heinous and so graphic and so harmful,” said Szczepanik “It was shocking that something had happened so close to home,” she added.
“Especially where this happened, it struck not only the families of the people that were murdered, but the community as a whole. They feel not safe anymore,” said Szczepanik.
Before Brian Karem, Sentinel Executive Editor, sang with his band, the Rhythm Bandits, he told the crowd, “Remember one thing, you go forward. We are not the enemy of the people. We are the people.”