Meadow Pollack was a beautiful young woman on track to attend Lynn University in the fall until her life was taken by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman High Schoolon Feb. 14.
On Saturday, deputies estimated about 650 bikers rode 45 miles along South Florida highways in Palm Beach and Broward Counties in a tribute to Meadow.
The ride — marked by roaring engines, banners and enthusiastic bikers who ended the trip in a neighborhood of luxury homes in Coral Springs — was part of a day of fundraising to create a playground for kids, a project spurred by her grieving father, Andrew Pollack.
“Meadow was amazing,” Pollack, 52, said. “There is nothing she couldn’t do or get from me. She was my little girl.”
Meadow was 18 when she was shot at the Parkland school, one of 17 students and staff who were killed that day. The playground design will include a water feature and a memorial for all who died. Their survivors will be invited to help plan it, Pollack said. He said he’s raised about $150,000, with a goal of $1 million to build and maintain it. The location is not yet finalized, he said.
As Pollack looked around at the hundreds of bikers and other supporters who streamed onto the property he shares with his wife, Julie Phillips, he said, “I”m very touched. It’s amazing.”
Among them were two student survivors of the shooting, David Hogg and Jaclyn Corin, who got their faces painted at the barbecue. Despite the sadness that shadowed the day like the cloudy skies above, there were drums and bagpipers from fire departments in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale and the Black Pearl Pipes and Drum band. Country group Whiskey Six and rockers Sweet 903 also performed.
Hogg and some of his classmates are gun control advocates, while Pollack says his focus is on making schools safer.
When Gov. Rick Scott signed a new school safety bill into law March 9, Pollack was present. It allows arming some school staff at the discretion of school superintendents and sheriffs; provides $400 million for mental health and school safety programs and permits seizure of firearms from people who make violent threats to themselves or others.
“This is nothing political,” Pollack said about the gathering and the parallel agendas of those who turned out. “We’re all Americans, and we want our kids to be safe. [The Douglas students] are bringing awareness. It’s not about one side, it’s about making it safe in school.”
Also at the gathering were Paul Teutul, Sr., star of the cable TV show “Orange County Choppers;” former Miami Dolphins running back Terry Kirby and chef Ralph Pagano, organizers said. One rider said he has followed Pollack’s appearances in the news and on YouTube. Pollack has been approached to run for elected office, his wife said.
“But I think as an outsider he’ll be able to get more done,” Julie Phillips said of her husband, who has had careers in scrap metal and real estate. On Sunday, their newly created nonprofit Americans4Class — Children’s Lives and School Safety, is scheduled to launch its website, she said.
Michael and Kimberly Williams of Fort Lauderdale made the ride and said as parents of teenagers, they can identify with what families of shooting victims are enduring.
“We rode to pay respect for the 17, and give back a bit and show support for everything Meadow’s dad is going through,” Michael Williams said. Added Kimberly Williams, “It was an intense ride. It was emotional, seeing the pack.”
Jim Rebar of Palm Beach Gardens called the day, “The right thing to do. I’ve been following Andrew. He’s hit the nail on the head, about making our kids safe in school, arming teachers who are qualified and having law enforcement on the premises.”
His riding partner Donna Monica said showing support to those who are going through a tragedy was important.
“We need to be unified as a nation, and show everyone outside Florida how we all gather together to make our schools safer so our kids can get an education,” Monica said.
As Pollack thanked the crowd that filled the tennis court and patio around the pool, he said a part of him was buried with his daughter.
“I’m not the same person,” Pollack said. “But there is good in it also. Because I’m empowered like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Evil went into that school that day and it knocked on my door and took my daughter. I’m not about to let that happen again.”