When Trey Ganem was contacted by friends in law enforcement shortly after the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 21 people including 19 children, he knew he had to help.
“They said ‘it’s like Sutherland Springs but it’s kids,’” Ganem told TODAY Parents, referring to the 2017 church shooting in the Texas town that killed 26 people. Ganem’s business, SoulShine Industries, makes custom caskets and his skills were used for the Sutherland victims.
“When I got the phone call I knew this was not going to be good,” he said. “But that’s what we’re here to do, help families through traumatic times.”
Ganem’s company designed custom caskets for 19 of the 21 victims of Uvalde for free. (The image of the Superman casket below is an example of Ganem’s work from a funeral before Uvalde.) He called on colleagues in the business to help supply caskets as his business did not have enough on hand.
Everyone he contacted jumped right in to help, Ganem said.
“This is one thing (the families) don’t have to worry about,” Ganem said.
He met with each victim’s family and through that, Ganem said, he “knows every one of these little guys."
“I know what makes their Mommas spark, what their quirks were. It’s bittersweet.”
Ganem and his son handle the majority of casket orders that come to SoulShine and call in help as needed. He said they worked around the clock, sleeping about six hours over the course of four days.
The generosity of this small business has taken its toll, Ganem said. Still, the outpouring of support from the local community has been tremendous.
“They come in and give us neck hugs, bring us lunch, ask if there’s anything they can do,” he said.
All 19 caskets have now been delivered. The reaction from the families, Ganem said, has helped him keep going.
“They squeeze me so hard and say it’s perfect,” he said. “I hope this helps the healing process.”