Stoneman Douglas alum Nicholas Thompson provides support following tragedy
February 21, 2018
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- At the Honda Classic, Nicholas Thompson will distribute #MSDStrong bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families. (Helen Ross/PGA TOUR)
Nicholas Thompson was on daddy duty, playing with his two young children, when the text messages started arriving last Wednesday.
Had he heard? Did he know there had been a shooting at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that afternoon?
Stunned, Thompson turned on the TV. The news video of those terrified teens running out of the buildings with their hands over their heads was haunting. The death toll was staggering.
“I was beyond shocked,” Thompson recalls.
The rest of the afternoon, Thompson and his wife, Christen, who, like her husband, is a 2001 MSD graduate, took turns watching the non-stop TV coverage or playing with the kids. They wanted to shield the oldest, who is 4, from the terrible news.
“But pretty much everything that was published online, I read about it,” says Thompson, who grew up and lived about 5 miles from the school for nearly three decades.
So once the children were asleep that night, Nicholas and Christen finally were able to process what had happened. And they knew they had to do something.
The Honda Classic, which is being played this week at PGA National in West Palm Beach just minutes from their home, offered the perfect opportunity.
So the PGA TOUR veteran talked with executive director Ken Kennerly and a plan was hatched.
The tournament is providing maroon ribbons for its 1,600 volunteers to wear to show support for the victims. Thompson and his wife bought another 500 -- maroon and silver with the letters MSD on them – for the players, caddies and wives.
On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the shooting, Thompson also ordered 3,100 maroon rubber bracelets with the words “Eagle Pride #MSD Strong” written in silver. He plans to distribute them at the tournament in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.
Thompson has also set up a GoFundMe page – the Support MSD Shooting Victims’ Fund – that funnels any money raised into the Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund page. The Broward Educational Foundation fund already has raised more than $1.8 million.
Stoneman Douglas graduates, like Thompson, nationwide have embarked on similar projects – not just to raise money but also to effect change. There’s even a private Facebook page called Mobilizing MSD Alumni that was created Wednesday after the shootings and already has more than 10,000 members.
“There are people doing t-shirts, there are people doing decals for cars, other people doing different types of wristbands,” Thompson says. “Everybody's just trying to help as much as they can. They're doing a like town hall, things with CNN, a concert, just everything to help not only raise money and funds but to get awareness out of what occurred and how people feel and all of that.”
Thompson doubts many of his friends on TOUR know he graduated from Stoneman Douglas. (His sister, Lexi, a nine-time winner on the LPGA Tour, and brother, Curtis, who competes on the Web.com Tour, both were home-schooled.) He actually went to school with one of the shooting victims, football coach Aaron Feis.
The 37-year-old Feis, who was one of 17 killed that afternoon, died trying to shield students from the gunman.
“I didn't 100 percent know him, but we had plenty of mutual friends,” says Thompson, who was two years behind Feis in high school. “And I knew of him.”
The building, which housed the freshman class, where the shooting occurred wasn’t there when Thompson attended MSD. But he remembers when it was built, and the other views from campus broadcast nationwide over the past week brought back vivid memories.
“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson says. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”
Thompson now lives about 45 minutes away from Parkland where MSD is located. While he had hoped to be playing in The Honda Classic in his backyard this week – Thompson fell short in Monday qualifying – he has new purpose for the week.
“Now I'll be able to help out more with this,” Thompson says.
The excitement in his voice is palpable and the sense of purpose strong. Just like all the teenagers at his alma mater who are trying to turn this tragedy into something positive, too.