Slain STEM School Highlands Ranch student Kendrick Castillo was remembered this week by a network of quilters who “love bombed” the Castillo family with a community quilt, a project made up of heart squares sewn by volunteers from all across the country. The gift was delivered to Kendrick’s father John Castillo days before what would have been Kendrick’s first day of college. Kendrick, an 18-year-old student just days from high school graduation, was killed on May 7th as he tackled a gunman who had entered his classroom, an act of heroism that undoubtedly saved the lives of his classmates. Kendrick was the only casualty.
Endeavoring to send healing through action, Kate Morgan, a local teacher who learned that the Castillos lived in her community, reached out to her friends on social media asking for cards, letters, and gifts that she would hand deliver to the family over the summer. “I want to love bomb the absolute s*** out of them,” Morgan posted to her Facebook account. “This boy has my ultimate respect as he should [from] all of us.”
Brooklyn quilter Ellen Grace Ruden responded right away. “I immediately thought of a quilt … I wanted [the Castillos] to have a physical object in their space that was not only a community effort by people across the country who loved and supported them, but also something that would make them think of Kendrick and smile,” Ruden told BELatina. “I literally wanted to wrap them up in our love.”
Ruden put out a call to the quilters of Instagram to submit a heart or two to be integrated into the project, gathering a total of 180 heart squares — almost all of which were from people she’d never met. She shared that working on the quilt and connecting with members of the quilting community was the most bittersweet project that she’s ever undertaken; in addition to the Castillo family, Ruden’s community project ended up reaching others who have been touched by gun violence. “One lady [who sent a heart] had a nephew in the next classroom and was keenly aware that Kendrick saved his life, she said. “Another woman was good friends with Vicky Soto, a teacher who was killed at Sandy Hook.”
The Castillo family has expressed their belief that love is the only way to heal and prevent more gun violence. Shortly after Kendrick’s death, John shared with NBC News that he and his son had discussed what to do if a gunman were to enter his school; the shooting at Kendrick’s school occurred a week after 21-year-old Riley Howell was killed after rushing a gunman at UNC Charlotte. John reminded Kendrick that he didn’t have to be a hero, but his son responded, “‘You raised me this way. You raised me to be a good person. That’s what I’m doing.'”
“So a quilt covered with hearts and made with so much love from them seemed even more fitting,” said Ruden. She added that part of the “Raindrops on Water” design of the quilt “symbolized our love rippling out to the Castillos, and Kendrick’s heroism rippling out and inspiring people.”
The quilt reached the Castillos only a week after their son was inducted into the Knights of Columbus at the organization’s Supreme Convention in Minneapolis. Kendrick was granted full membership with unanimous assent from over 2,000 convention attendees, a rare honor. “Kendrick wanted to join the Knights of Columbus to be more like us,” said Carl A. Anderson, the head of the organization at the induction ceremony. “By your acclamation, you have told the world that we want to be more like him.” In addition to membership, Kendrick was honored with the Caritas Medal, an award that recognizes profound acts of charity and service.