Grieving Mother Brings Love and Toys to Uvalde, TX

Grieving Mother Brings Love and Toys to Uvalde, TX

Photo Courtesy of Justice for Arlene Alvarez/

In early 2022, Arlene Alvarez was unintentionally killed in an act of gun violence while on her way to have dinner with her family.

A man had just been robbed at gunpoint at a Houston ATM. When he tried to stop the attacker, he accidentally shot Arlene as a truck drove by. She was in the backseat wearing headphones.

Although Arlene was rushed to the hospital, there was no way to save her.

As you can imagine her mother, Gwen, was beyond devastated by what happened. [[1]]

When hearing about the recent tragedy of the school shooting in Texas, Gwen said “When my baby girl had passed away, they gifted me a teddy bear with her heartbeat. That comforted me so much. I just feel like Uvalde needs a lot of love. The moment I came in this town, I felt the grief.”

“I felt the pain.”

Arlene was a Fourth Grader, Just Like the Uvalde Students

“The moment I found out it was fourth-graders,” Gwen said, “it took me back to my baby girl. She was a fourth-grader.”

When the Alvarez family arrived in Uvalde, they unpacked a trailer of donated toys that were meant for the children in the community. Instead of seeing children getting ready to enjoy the summer and playing with their favorite things, many were carrying signs. [[2]]

Alayna Borrego was there. She’s 11, and lost a friend in the school shooting that took place at Robb Elementary School. Her sign read, “I want to live. I want to study. I want to be a dentist. Don’t kill me.”

“We need to change something,” said Borrego. “We need more safety in our schools.”

Alvarez says that the efforts to fund behavioral health programs, provide mental health care, and look at possible gun control measures are things to consider. Still, those actions must come with the kindness of strangers and a willingness to pray.

“I came here to be here for the parents,” said Gwen. “Seeing the news and watching them, it hurt me, because they are grieving. We are here to show them that we are here for them.”

Dozens of Strangers Have Come to Uvalde to Help

The Alvarez family aren’t the only ones making their way to Uvalde to help the families there during this unimaginable time of grief.

You might see Patrick Johnson setting up a small table in the shade of the trees found in the community’s town square. He has free toys to hand out, ranging from toy trucks to volleyballs. He drove seven hours to be there.

Johnson was eating lunch when the news of what had happened reached him. “I immediately broke down and wept,” he said. “I’m not even from this community, but I’m hurting. It makes you think about your own kids.” [[3]]

He didn’t bring donated toys. Johnson says he stopped at a Walmart on the way there, packed his trunk full, and then started giving everything away. When he runs out, he goes back to the store to get more.

Tracy Colton manages the Walgreens pharmacy in Uvalde. “We have family members come in to pick up photos of their children who died. What do you say to them? There’s nothing you can do.” Instead of welcoming people with the usual “Welcome to Walgreens” pitch, she’s hugging parents and crying with them when they come into the store. [[4]]

Dozens of employees in the Walgreens family of stores throughout Texas are coming to the city to provide local workers with a respite from the heartbreak. Whataburger is doing the same, while a Starbucks manager brought ten people from his store to work in town. One person traveled about 200 miles to fill shifts so that someone could take time off if it’s needed.

Lutheran Church Charities is in Uvalde to provide comfort with the help of eight golden retrievers. Each dog wars a blue vest that says, “Please pet me.”

When someone experiences their darkest moment, the unconditional love a dog offers can often cut through the heavy sadness that fills a heart.

When Gwen thinks back to the moment she lost her daughter, she always comes back to one moment. “I didn’t scream loud enough,” she said. “I didn’t know she had her headphones on.”

Now, with a place and a mission to help, Gwen says that her daughter is an angel helping her help others get through these difficult days.

Anyone wanting to help Uvalde can donate directly to the families by using Zelle to transfer funds electronically to A check can also be mailed to 200 East Nopal St., Uvalde, Texas 78801, payable to the Robb School Memorial Fund.


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