WELLINGTON, Fla. — A local dad is taking action to help his daughter, her friends and any students and school staff members feel safer at school.
With the growing and frequent threat of gun violence at schools, Wellington resident Hilario (Larry) James wanted to make sure his daughter felt safe should a dangerous situation ever arise in her school.
Hiding under a desk or in a closet, he feared, might not be enough.
He remembers the shock and horror he felt watching the news the day of the Parkland school shooting.
His 15-year- old daughter, Madison Page, watched the news with him.
“It was super close to us, maybe a half an hour away. If it could happen there, what’s to stop it from happening here?” Madison said.
“What will forever be embedded in my head is not what she said to me, but what she uttered to the screen. How will I ever feel safe at school again?” James said.
That day, he started brainstorming.
“When a parent hears a cry for help for their child, it’s parent mode. It’s a call to action," James said.
He wanted to send her off to school with something that could protect her. He started envisioning ballistic gear that would be practical, lightweight, and something she could put on quickly and potentially run with.
He wanted to make her a vest.
“I started to draw patterns, I asked her for her help sewing...Of course, my first vest looked like something you’d wear on Halloween,” James said.
After a couple of months, he came up with a backpack that could convert into a bulletproof vest.
He designed the bag so his daughter could quickly rip off the vest from the backpack, detaching it from the heavier books and supplies that could slow her down if she needed to run.
He tested the vest with 9mm, AR-15 and AK-47 rounds, saying the vest held up.
“I knocked on her door and said this is what I’ve created for you to go to school,” James said.
After that, he wanted to make sure her friends were safe and ultimately patented the product to be sold to the public.
He knows it is tough for some parents to grasp sending their child to school with ballistic gear.
“There are some concerns, but it's more we can’t believe we’re in this world right now," said James
James says it gives him and his daughter more peace of mind.
“Nobody needs to be dying when they go to school,” Madison said.
“You can’t change the world but you can change how you face it,” said James said.
He says the bags sell between $99 and $200, but he has already given bags to various principals and teachers.
He says he is also looking for opportunities to adopt schools and provides discounts to schools.