MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High hoping to spread some goodwill and bring much-needed smiles to faces of students and teachers.
He also went to listen — and was impressed by what the kids said.
Speaking Thursday about his surprise visit the previous day to the school in Parkland, Florida were 17 people — mostly students — were shot and killed last month, the Miami Heat guard said he was stunned to see how well-organized the Douglas students are already in their quest for fast and substantive societal change.
"They are well-prepared and well-aware of what they need to do and what they want to do and the change they want to see," Wade said. "It's great. It's great to hear. It's great to see that, because I come from a community in Chicago where our youth are getting killed daily and don't have the same voice, don't have the same light on them that Parkland has. These kids understand what they have."
Numerous students posted video and photos of Wade's visit on social media. Only a few of Wade's closest advisers were aware of his plan to go to the school Wednesday in advance, and students made clear his visit provided a huge emotional lift.
"Greatest moment of my life," student Joey Pelose said of the Wade visit.
Wade's family has been touched multiple times by gun violence, including when his cousin — a mother of four — was shot and killed on a Chicago street in 2016, with police saying she was not the intended target.
The shooting in Parkland has affected him deeply as well, not just for the school's proximity to Miami and to a school that one of his sons attends, but also because one of the victims was buried in a Wade jersey. Wade has also met with the family of that teen, Joaquin Oliver , and promised them that he would keep using his voice to help facilitate change.
"It's a call to action for all of us and we're honored to be just a small part of it to support them — and hopefully give them all a much bigger megaphone," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We can help with that, but what bigger megaphone can you have than Dwyane Wade going down there and allowing their voices to be heard so many other places. That's powerful."
Wade's visit was one of several examples of how the sports world keeps trying to help the school heal.
Major League Baseball teams all wore Stoneman Douglas hats in their spring-training openers. Last week, a contingent of representatives from the Heat (including Spoelstra and players Udonis Haslem, Justise Winslow and Kelly Olynyk, plus Haslem's wife Faith), the Florida Panthers, the Miami Marlins and Miami Dolphins all privately met with five families of students who were wounded in the Feb. 14 massacre to offer help.
Earlier this week, the Panthers arranged for the school's hockey team to hoist and skate with the Stanley Cup.
"We know we did the right thing," said Panthers executive Shawn Thornton, who helped arrange the Cup visit.
And Wednesday night, when the U.S. women's national soccer team beat England 1-0 to win the SheBelieves Cup tournament in Orlando, Florida, the match was preceded by a moment of silence for Douglas soccer player and shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff. Her family and teammates all received U.S. jerseys with Alhadeff's name and number on them.
Before the start of the She Believes Cup women's soccer match of USA vs. England at Orlando City Stadium on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, soccer players and other students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hold signs and weep for their former teammate, Alyssa Alhadeff, who was killed in the massacre at the South Florida High School on February 14, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
"Just when I think there are no more tears to cry," student Aly Sheehy wrote on Twitter in response to the gesture at the U.S.-England match. "Thank you ... for allowing us to come and heal."
Florida lawmakers earlier this week passed a school safety bill with new restrictions on rifle sales and a program to arm some teachers, though it remains unclear if Gov. Rick Scott will sign the bill — which has the support of victims' families — into law.