Nick Vaccarezza is drawing strength these days from his family, his student friends, and his racing friends.
Vaccarezza, a senior, and his brother Mike, a sophomore, are the sons of Breeders' Cup-winning owner Carlo Vaccarezza and both are students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They both avoided harm during the Feb. 14 shooting at the Parkland, Fla., school that claimed 17 lives.
Since that day, many have reached out to the Vaccarezza family. Nick Vaccarezza said seeing friends and family has taken on added meaning, knowing that some of his classmates will no longer have such opportunities.
"When I went back to Gulfstream, people were saying it was great to see me and I was telling them it was great to see them," Nick Vaccarezza said.
With the idea of finding strength from one another in mind, Carlo Vaccarezza is helping organize a fundraiser for families of victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
The Parkland Strong fundraising event is scheduled for 2-9 p.m., Feb. 25 at Vaccarezza's Frank and Dino's restaurant in Boca Raton, Fla. All food and drink throughout the day will be complimentary for those who contribute.
"Our goal is to raise $500,000," Carlo Vaccarezza said. "I will cater the entire day and 100% of donations will go to the families."
Checks can be made out to His Place Ministries, a 501(c)3 charity. Credit card donations can be made through Frank and Dino's.
Nick Vaccarezza, also a horse owner who has Manhattan Project entered in a maiden claiming race Feb. 23 at Gulfstream Park, plans to attend the University of Kentucky after graduating high school. After college, he plans to be a Thoroughbred trainer.
On the day of the shooting, Nick Vaccarezza said there initially was some confusion because students had been told to expect a drill for such a situation in the coming days. After hearing the gunshots, he texted his brother and some friends and they all met near the softball field dugout.
After a quick assessment, they were able to safely leave the property.
Nick Vaccarezza noted that his father has offered fundraisers before, including a recent one for last year's Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston. He hopes the fundraiser provides a small, positive step for the families impacted.
"No amount of money can bring anyone back, but this is something we can do to help," he said.