A Texas father and son team have been working around the clock to lovingly craft a custom casket for each of the children killed in last week’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Trey Ganem, the owner of SoulShine Industries, a company specializing in custom caskets and urns, told Good Morning America he was contacted by a trooper and funeral directors to see if he’d be willing to help.
“They know I deal with a lot of children and that I can make sure that things get done as far as doing customization and doing something special because this wasn’t your typical funeral arrangements,” Ganem said.
Ganem, 50, told CBS News he visited with each family to learn about their child’s interests.
“Being able to go to the homes is something that is very emotional for me,” Ganem told CBS Mornings. “It is not a box anymore. It is a beautiful creation that represents the loved ones.”
The results are nothing short of remarkable – and heartbreaking.
One casket is painted in the theme of the Toronto Blue Jays. Another has masks across the top to show the child’s love of theatre.
“There were so many unique caskets that we did for these families. We did one with a dinosaur holding a flashlight and a pickle. And when the families are telling us, we’re like, ‘Wait, did you just tell me of a flashlight, dinosaur and a pickle?’ and they giggle, but for whatever reason, it was very special to them,” Ganem told NBC News.
Ganem says he worked around the clock with his son, Billy, to get the caskets ready in time, as some of the funerals are taking place this week.
Ganem also credits friends, family and members of the community for the quick turnaround. He told BuzzFeed News that his close friend, Bubba, hired a trucking company to make the 26-hour trip to Georgia to pick up the child-size caskets, and artists from across the state came in to help him get the caskets decorated.
“Awesome people out there that are helping us, I can’t even tell you, my heart is just so warm from everybody reaching out and wanting to be part of this, from sanding, helping do deliveries and you name it, the community has opened up, it’s bringing us all together and making us a tighter community,” Ganem told NBC.
Ganem has donated each of the caskets to the families, making sure they have one less thing to think about.
In the past, Ganem and his son have created standard-size caskets in the shape of ’57 Chevys and transformed children’s-size ones into Batmobiles.
“We’re here to try to make a hard time a little easier,” Billy Ganem, 25, told BuzzFeed News. “There’s nothing we can really ever do to make it easier, but that’s our goal: to help the families … start their grieving and their healing and just try to make something special for them.”
Nineteen children and two teachers died in the attack at Robb Elementary School, making it the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.