The morning of July 29, less than 24 hours after a shooter open fire on the crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, local real estate company owners, Tina Tovar and Ruth Garcia started working on ways they could help those affected.
Three young people were killed in the shooting—Stephen Romero, 6, Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, 25—and 17 others were injured. Tovar and Garcia began fundraising that day for the victims’ families and survivors, and started to use the phrase “#GilroyStrong.” They then began working with local businesses to get T-shirts made.
The proceeds from T-shirt sales and donations given to the women went to the Gilroy Foundation, which has been raising money for families and survivors.
The group made up of Tovar, Garcia and several other community members was originally calling itself “Gilroy Strong,” but when it came time to buy a domain name to create a website detailing the committee goals, the name Gilroystrong.com had already been taken.
Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch, bought the domain Gilroystrong.com soon after the shooting from another owner. He said he has been in contact with Gilroy Garlic Festival and the Gilroy Foundation on how the site will be used going forward. As of right now, the website has just one page with a statement about the shooting from Christopher Ranch.
Garcia and Tovar decided to go with the name “Gilroy Stronger” instead: They said the purpose of what they were doing was to “help the community moving forward,” and they felt the new name represented that mission.
Gilroy Stronger is affiliated with Tovar and Garcia’s real estate company Windermere Real Estate, which now occupies the office space once leased by the Garlic Festival in downtown Gilroy. Other community members and leaders are associated with helping the group with donations and fundraising.
On its website, Gilroystronger.com, the group said it has raised $52,000 for the Gilroy Foundation so far.
Council member Fred Tovar is the brother-in-law of Tina Tovar. He has been the liaison between the city and the committee, helping to get a #GilroyStrong banner put up across Monterey Street.
A new banner was hung Aug. 29 to advertise #GilroyStronger’s benefit concert Sept. 7 at the Gilroy Elks Lodge off Hecker Pass Road. The group said all of the proceeds will go toward helping families and survivors of the shooting, aside from some money used to pay vendors.
The concert will be free and feature nine local bands, a live and silent auction and food and drinks. It will be held from noon to 9pm.
“After everything was said and done,” said Tovar, “we thought, ‘Wow, this is bigger than us.’”