JACKSON TWP.  Robyn Connelly said her daughter, Maddie, and son, Jacob, came home from Jackson Memorial Middle School on Feb. 20 thinking of positives ways to move forward to unite the school and the community. They had both just experienced a daylong lockdown when a fellow student brought a .22-caliber rifle to school with the reported intent of harming students in the building. The student later took his own life inside one of the boy’s restrooms.

Both Maddie and Jacob wanted to do something that would focus on a positive message and build support. The idea of selecting a day where students, teachers and staff would where a T-shirt with a positive message started to build.

"We thought the t-shirt idea had potential but couldn’t really come up with a slogan or unifying message," Connelly said. "We shared the idea with my kids’ friends who went to their parents, Matt and Denise Geissinger.  They came up with the message of Jackson Purple and Gold, Resilient and Bold."

The family posted the idea and the slogan on a community Facebook page and it caught the attention of Tracey Maier who owns a couple of local businesses, including Perry Tanning & Sportswear. Maier reached out to Connelly and offered to print the T-shirts and sell them at cost. Maier’s company absorbed the cost of artwork, set up fees and ink. She said it was her way of providing something positive for the project and the community.

By March 2, there were 1,200 T-shirts printed and distributed with another 600 shirts in the works. Many people in the community started donating funds to purchase shirts for students in middle school, the staff at Lake Cable and the kindergarten classes at Strausser Elementary. Another person donated T-shirts for the bus drivers.

"We would love to have all the students in the elementary schools and the high schools to have a T-shirt and people are still able to donate by the Perry Tanning & Sportswear (embroidery/silk screening/ on Facebook.  We’ve found that so many people want to bring the community and the school together for a better day," Connelly said.

She added that her family and the Geissinger’s came up with the idea, but Tracey Maier is the person who has contributed her time and expense to move the T-shirt project forward.

The Starbucks in Nobles Pond in Jackson Township participated in the unity message on March 2. Manager Mike Parker offered a shirt to his employees and the inside of the coffee was decorated with purple and gold balloons.

"I have son in the middle school, so I get it," Parker said. "We are part of the community here and we wanted to show our support and unity."

"We are all extremely grateful for the community support from other districts, community members and parents," said Jackson Middle School Principal Kacy Carter.