'Keep fighting': Parents of student killed in Parkland shooting meet with Highland Park survivors

Joaquin Oliver among 17 students who were Parkland shooting victims

Sarah Schulte Image
Friday, August 4, 2023
Parents of teen killed in Parkland meet with Highland Park survivors
The parents of a Parkland school shooting victim met with Highland Park parade survivors Friday in an effort to fight gun violence.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- United by the shared trauma of deadly gun violence, the parents of a student killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting visited survivors of the Highland Park parade shooting Friday.

The parents of victim Joaquin Oliver are on a multi-city tour of mass shooting sites in a call for stricter gun laws.

Manny Oliver drives a retrofitted school bus. His wife, Patricia, is the passenger.

They are spending the summer crisscrossing the country to bring awareness to the fight against gun violence.

Joaquin Oliver was one of 17 students killed in Parkland.

"My son was the best guy ever, not all like me, athletic, handsome, sharp," Manny Oliver said.

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Joaquin Oliver, who went by the nickname Guac, would have been 23 years old Friday.

His parents are celebrating his birthday in Highland Park, one of 23 communities affected by gun violence on the Olivers' bus tour.

"Today is a day about love, hope and determination; those are three words at the minimum to describe Joaquin," Patricia Oliver said.

One of Joaquin Oliver's favorite songs was "Moon River."

It played while Highland Park survivors, residents and local activists gave Patricia Oliver sunflowers. They all moved over to the Highland Park rock garden, a memorial for the parade shooting's seven victims.

"I like to think being here, there is a common sense, need of help; there is an understanding in how we feel," Manny Oliver said.

"I am Highland Park today; I want you to keep fighting for what we have to fight, that is to be safer life for all of us," Patricia Oliver said.

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The Olivers said 250,000 people have been killed by guns in America since their son's death.

Their bus tour is one of many unconventional campaigns and projects they have done in their fight for a federal assault weapons ban.

"This is about trying new things; if we keep trying the same things, we are going to be in the same spot years from now," Manny Oliver said.

The Olivers' visit to Highland Park wrapped up with a drive down the parade route.

The next stop on the tour is Louisville.

But, before leaving the Chicago area, Manny Oliver will present a one-man-theatre performance about his son.

It's called "Guac," and will be held at the Greenhouse Theater in Lincoln Park Saturday night.