11-Year-Old Starts 'El Paso Challenge' to Help Community Heal After Mass Shooting
Rose Gandarilla said her son Ruben is coping with the aftermath of the shooting by challenging everyone in his community to do 20 good deeds.
On Saturday, August 3, 20 people were killed and 26 were injured in a mass shooting inside a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The horrific incident left the entire community reeling and an 11-year-old boy named Ruben wondering what he could do to cope and help his fellow El Pasoans heal.
"After the shooting, [Ruben] was scared and anxious," the boy's mom, Rose Gandarilla, says. "We talked about the fact that El Pasoans are good-hearted people that genuinely care for each other. I told him to think of something that he could do to help out."
On Sunday, Ruben came up with the El Paso Challenge, a social media campaign meant to honor the victims of the shooting, which challenges everyone in El Paso to do 20 good deeds for one another—one act of kindness for every person whose life was taken on Saturday.
Gandarilla took to Facebook and Twitter to share a photo of her son and the game plan he proposed. "How to convince everyone to join the El Paso challenge: Hold up posters, pass out flyers, send it to Facebook," Ruben's note read. "This will show the world people from El Paso are kind and care for each other." He also gave examples of good deeds El Pasoans could do: mow someone's lawn, visit a nursing home, pay for someone's lunch or dinner, donate to families in need, write someone a letter and tell them how great they are, hold the door for everyone, among others.
Gandarilla told CNN that her son's first act of kindness was to "go deliver dinner to our first responders."
Since being shared on Sunday, August 4, the tweet about Ruben's El Paso Challenge has been retweeted nearly 3K times. Twitter users in El Paso, other cities in Texas, and locations all over the country have stepped up, committing to do as Ruben asked.
Ruben has even taken his message offline, visiting various local businesses to spread the word. The sixth grader approached a group of people at Taco Bell, according to Chris Castaneda, who shared details of the experience on on Facebook.
Just as Ruben had hoped, the challenge seems to be having a healing effect on his community. It's also been a wonderful way for him to cope. Gandarilla tells Click2Houston, "He seems to be doing better and says that hopefully, the world will be a better place with all these random acts of kindness."