Fundraiser by Columbine shooting survivors held to support victims of similar tragedies

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LITTLETON, Colo. — A fundraiser was held Saturday night to support victims of mass shootings.

It was the fifth annual event by Phoenix 999, a nonprofit started by survivors of the Columbine High School shooting, which happened 18 years ago this week.

“Its a huge positive out of a huge negative,” said Zac Rissmiller, a 1999 graduate of Columbine and member of Phoenix 999.

“We wanted to make a difference. We were tired of feeling helpless after things like this happened,” Phoenix co-founder Zach Cartaya said.

“I didn’t understand the impact it was going to have on me for the rest of my life,” said Amy Over, also a co-founder the nonprofit and survivor of the Columbine shooting.

After watching too many mass shootings after the one they lived through, Rismiller, Cartaya and Over decided they had to step up.

“So many things happened between Columbine and 2012 when Aurora happened, you kind of get taken back to that place you were when you were, when I was 17,” Cartaya said.

“When a mass shooting happens, there has to be a response and if nobody is going to do it then we are,” said Zac Rissmiller, also a graduate of the Columbine class of 1999.

It was the day after the Aurora theater shooting that they formed Phoenix 999 and the Rebels Project. Through it, they are reaching out to others who’ve been through the same.

“You start to talk about PTSD. You start to talk about survivor’s guilt,” Rissmiller said.

“Raising funds, raising awareness to combat post traumatic stress disorder,” Cartaya said.

“I didn’t have help. These guys want to provide that help and that’s more important than anything I’ve ever done,” Rismiller added.

Saturday marked the fifth year of the fundraiser and 18 years of trying to turn a negative into a positive.

“In a way, it was a blessing that it happened because I am who I am and I’m stronger and I’m resilient,” Over said.

The money raised helps victims of mass shootings across the country, both with counseling and support.

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