Things got deadly serious at Luigi’s Pizza and Fun Center on Feb. 15 when a mass shooting at the nearby Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois, left five people dead.
Law enforcement and other first-responders turned the pizzeria/gaming center into a command center as they tried to minimize the bloodshed on that fateful day. On April 7, the venue served as a gathering place for the community in celebration of those first responders’ efforts.
“Basically, this is a celebration and a thank-you for all the first responders who have to step away from a family event, miss a birthday, wake up in the middle of the night and drop what they’re doing to protect us,” Luigi’s owner Bill Poss told the Beacon News. “This is a way to make up for some of that lost family time.”
More than 20 area businesses joined forces to make the nine-hour party possible. The event included buffet tables laden with food, free massages, face-painting for kids, a magician, and goodie bags from local scout troops.
Donations also poured in from around the country. “There were people from Texas and Florida that said, ‘Here’s 20 bucks. I can’t be there, but I want to support this any way I can,’” Poss told the Beacon News.