Friends living in Isla Vista were en route to Jordan Killebrew’s Santa Barbara residence for a typical Friday night of fun last spring when news of a mass shooting disrupted the evening.
Like so many others, Killebrew stayed glued to CNN and news reports the next day, learning six college students that hailed from his alma mater of UC Santa Barbara had been killed in the May 23 shooting and stabbing rampage.
He felt helpless. The unreal feeling intensified during a day of collective sadness, through a night vigil and many messages of love exchanged between old classmates and friends.
“That’s my No. 1 fear in life,” the 25-year-old Los Angeles native said of helplessness. “I have all these resources in front of me. So, I should do something.”
By that Sunday night, Killebrew had created the Project IV Love website to collect donations so a permanent memorial to the victims could be created in Isla Vista.
An accompanying Facebook page logged 1,000 likes in a matter of hours.
Killebrew, who graduated in 2010 with an art degree, also went to work designing T-shirts for sale and banked $250 from employers at Santa Barbara’s Yovigo.com to keep going.
As an active former participant in UCSB’s Associated Students and resident adviser in the dorms, Killebrew got in touch with student leaders and Katya Armistead, the university’s associate dean of student life and activities.
From there, Armistead introduced Killebrew to Isla Vista Recreation and Park District general manager Rodney Gould, who came up with the idea of installing a self-guided botanic tour on a brown grass and dirt area at People’s Park in the heart of IV near Embarcadero Hall.
Art students in a UCSB sculpture class will design six memorials to place along the walk, which the community will help plant with native succulents in a “planting day” this fall.
The parks district approved the plan last week, and Gould hopes planting will be done before winter.
“I’m so glad that they opted to do something that would add life and put smiles on people’s faces,” Gould said.
So far, Project IV Love has raised more than $7,500.
Woodstock’s Pizza in Isla Vista hosted a fundraiser for the project during finals week, donating every penny of the day’s sales, said co-owner Laura Ambrose.
She said more than $7,000 was brought in after large local corporations and UCSB departments got word of the pizza joint’s benefit.
The project has awarded proceeds to the Isla Vista Public Improvement Corporation, a sister organization of the park district, to get garden plans going.
“Although we never want to see this kind of violence in our community, and our hearts are broken by the tragedy of it all, we can take joy in seeing something beautiful come together that will live in perpetuity in our community and in our hearts,” Ambrose said.
Killebrew humbly credits the amazing supporters of the project, but Armistead said the alum’s passion made the memorial possible.
“He has such a great heart, and as an alum he wants to create something special for the community and remember the lives of those who were lost in the tragedy,” she said.
Killebrew hopes a trust will be set up to fund ongoing parks maintenance of the memorial, which will beautify a landscape that hasn’t seen some love since 1970.
“Our goal is that the park never dies,” he said. “I think this just speaks to the power of being a Gaucho. I want to permanently remember these lives.”