AUSTIN (KXAN) — With tears in her eyes and grief in her heart, Austin’s Sarah Haegelin took to her canvas on May 31. Just days after the mass shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, the 42-year-old mother of three began the delicate process of sketching and painting Texas wildflowers.
Their colors, shapes and sizes were all different. Twenty-one total — one for each of the lives lost.
“I had the idea to paint wildflowers, just because each one is so unique and so beautiful,” Haegelin said. “I thought if I can assign a wildflower to each victim then when I see them, wildflowers, throughout my life, I would think about each of those souls.”
In addition to the time spent extensively researching the most prominent and beloved wildflowers in the state, Haegelin poured in more than 40 hours creating the artwork itself.
While painting a watercolor of this quality requires precision, vision and talent, Haegelin also had to work through powerful emotions and a connection to the city and school where the tragedy took place that few others in Austin have.
“My favorite elementary school teacher was my fourth grade teacher at Robb [Elementary] — extremely fond memories of that school,” she said. “To see the aerial images of my school and just thinking about myself sitting in one of those classrooms I could see on the film, it’s just heartbreaking. It really hit close to home.”
After nearly a month of work, the finished product came together at the end of June. It was then Haegelin got the idea this work that had proved therapeutic for her could perhaps help others and maybe even the Uvalde survivors themselves.
With Robb Elementary now permanently closed, the survivors are being sent to new schools. Some are at a former administration building with no playground equipment, and the others are at a school with some equipment in disrepair, Haegelin said.
“I feel like play is so important for kids and particularly for kids that have been through trauma,” she said. “So I started thinking, maybe if I sold a few of these prints, we could purchase a couple of things to update those playgrounds.”
Others got on board including Austin playground equipment supplier Kompan. The company offered to donate the equipment so long as the installation and resurfacing was paid for, a roughly $30,000 cost.
Haegelin reached out to the Uvalde CISD Parent Teacher Organization and had it set up a donation link on its website. A $45 donation to the group is enough to get donors a print of the painting. Donors are asked to leave the address where they want the painting sent in the PayPal notes.
In less than two months the PTO has received 797 donations with more than $22,000 raised in net proceeds.
Haegelin is optimistic her prints will help raise the additional $8,000 to make the new playgrounds a reality.
“There’s so much sadness wrapped up in this situation, and so I wanted to create something that was beautiful to look at and that you would hang in your home,” she said. “But that if you knew what it stood for, it would be more meaningful to you.”