Rebecca Jarquin, Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center director, Melissa Rosen and Juan Vincente, and a look at the Comfort Rooms.
By Kevin Deutsch
As victims and their families watched the trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz, all had a safe place to take in the proceedings thanks to a local wellness organization.
Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center, which supports victims’ families and survivors of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, successfully lobbied Broward County court officials to reserve three rooms as “wellness centers” for the bereaved during the trial and sentencing.
The rooms were equipped with around-the-clock clinical therapists, food, beverages, pillows, blankets, occasional visits from emotional support dogs, and whatever else the occupants required.
The comfort rooms were “closed to the media and outsiders to offer the families the privacy they needed as they were re-traumatized by the trial day after day,” according to a press release from Eagles’ Haven.
The rooms were set up in April and remained in the Broward County Courthouse through Nov. 2, the last day of the proceedings.
Cruz, who fatally shot 17 people and wounded 17 others at the high school on Valentine’s Day 2018, was sentenced to life in prison this week after a jury decided to spare him the death penalty for his crimes.
Parents of his victims vented their frustration following the jury’s decision, blasting the panel for showing mercy to a mass killer.
Still, through months of agonizing testimony, they found a semblance of solace in the safe rooms overseen by Eagles’ Haven.
“Thank you to the families for allowing us into your world and trusting us to support you throughout the sentencing trial. Your fortitude was unimaginable, and we are in awe of what you were required to endure. We are honored to have served each of you,” shared Rebecca Jarquin, Director of Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center.
A Coral Springs-based nonprofit, Eagles’ Haven offers free crisis support, case management, support groups, yoga, creative art classes, meditation, dance, and other wellness experiences aimed at helping Parkland and Coral Springs heal from the shooting.
Sarah Franco, the CEO of JAFCO, a nonprofit organization that runs Eagles’ Haven, began work on the safe rooms project in April, wanting to “recreate a safe and soothing place for the families in the courthouse, and replicate a miniature version of the beautiful space at Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center” in Coral Springs, according to the release.
With the support of Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich, Franco got permission from the Broward State Attorney’s Office and courthouse administration to make the idea a reality, according to Eagles’ Haven.
“We felt we needed to bring that sense of safety to their families who were coming for months to the trial in the courthouse,” Franco said.
Jarquin said she hopes the comfort rooms inspire other safe spaces in other courthouses worldwide.
Eagles’ Haven Wellness Center will remain open seven days a week to provide wellness and support to the victims’ families, those injured in the shooting, and anyone in the community who needs help to cope with trauma from the shooting, organizers said.
Eagles’ Haven is located at 5655 Coral Ridge Drive in Coral Springs.
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