PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Healing through art.
They’re getting help from a neighboring school and a local artist.
Lucas Espinoza has a huge smile on his face as he sits next to one of his friends who is still recovering from the crash.
Even for just one night, the two are thinking about something other than what they went through last week.
WEB EXTRA: Photos Of The Paint Night
“I was having fun with all my friends and I was forgetting about the accident a lot,” Lucas said.
Lucas, 11, survived Thursday’s bus crash in New Jersey that killed East Brook Middle School teacher Jennifer Williamson and fellow student Miranda Vargas, who was just 10-years-old.
“It was extremely scary, and our son is very OK, and we are so thankful for that,” said Jessica Espinoza. She’s Lucas’ mother, and also the principal of Emerson Elementary Schools, located in a nearby town.
“We have a long road ahead of us as a community and we are just praying for everyone,” she said.
She knew if her family was in need of a pick-me-up, the community must be as well. So when she saw a post on Facebook about a friend looking to set up a paint night to boost morale, she wanted to help.
“It was really a last minute situation. Judy was looking for a larger venue for a paint night,” Espinoza said.
Judy Cohen owns The Paint Box, and says it couldn’t hold the growing demand.
“I had 30, 40, 50 people and I didn’t want to turn them away,” Cohen said.
So within hours, Jessica opened up her Emerson Gymnasium to the Paramus community.
“Everyone needed that theraupeutic environment to come together as families, and our entire community came,” Espinoza said.
Teachers donated their time to help 150 students and parents from a completely different school district: Essentially, strangers.
“We care deeply for them. We know what they’re going through and we don’t want them to be out there by themselves, so we want to take care of them,” said Dr. Brian Gatens, Emerson Public School District superintendent.
The paint night raised about $3,700 for the students impacted by the crash. Most of the artwork was donated to Miranda’s family and put on display at her funeral.
As for Lucas and his mom, they’re happy this event can help them laugh together again.
“I am proud that she has been staying strong the entire time and helping me get through it,” Lucas said.
The whole community came together to help each other get through it.
The paint night was in such high demand that organizers will be hosting another event June 2. This one will be at the Paramus Elks Lodge, which holds even more people.
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