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Non-profit provides trauma therapists to survivors and those affected by gun violence

AURORA, Colo. (KRDO) -- Sandy and Lonnie Phillips have a fire inside when it comes to providing help to survivors and others affected by gun violence.

"We know what it's like. We've walked in those shoes," Sandy says.

Sandy and Lonnie are the founders of the non-profit organization Survivors Empowered. They started the group after the couple lost their daughter, Jessi, in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting.

After the shooting, Sandy says at one point, she looked to Lonnie and said she needed the help of a therapist. And after meeting some of the parents of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting victims, she and Lonnie knew it was their life mission to help those also affected by these sorts of tragedies.

"It's a hard job to do. It's an emotional job to do," Sandy says. "It's very rewarding to know we're helping them through their pain, even just this much… but we're helping them get through it."

Sandy, Lonnie, and Survivors Empowered travel to sites of mass shootings to directly provide trauma therapists to survivors and those affected by the event. So far, they've traveled to 17.

Sandy says it's important for those experiencing the tragedy to experience their grief in its entirety -- calling survivors and those affected a "changed person, forever."

"We know that trauma therapy immediately after the fact really helps these people to start to move forward and not be left with PTSD that's untreated," Sandy says.

These trauma therapists continue to help those who experienced past shootings locally too -- Aurora, Colorado Springs, Highland Ranch, to name a few.

During the pandemic, the therapists with Survivors Empowered have continued to support survivors through ZOOM, however, the non-profit has people ready to go out in the field should a shooting happen near them.

If you would like to help or become involved with Survivors Empowered, click here.

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Natalie Haddad

Natalie is a traffic reporter and MMJ for Good Morning Colorado and KRDO. You can learn more about her here.

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