IPSWICH — When organizers of a charity golf tournament in Ipswich asked Lori Alhadeff to be their guest speaker, it figured to be a compelling talk by a mother whose daughter had been murdered in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Unfortunately, Alhadeff's appearance on Monday took on even more urgency in the wake of two more mass shootings, Saturday in El Paso, Texas, and early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio.
As she stood next to the putting green on a bright sunny afternoon at Ipswich Country Club, where she was scheduled to speak to participants in the 25th annual Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Golf Tournament, Alhadeff said the weekend shootings once again highlighted the need for the country to take action.
"My heart goes out to the families," she said. "I understand the pain and suffering they're going through right now."
Alhadeff's daughter, Alyssa, was 14 years old when she became one of 17 victims of a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. In the wake of the tragedy, Lori Alhadeff formed a foundation called Make Our Schools Safe and was elected to the Broward County School Board.
Alhadeff, who wore a necklace with her daughter's picture, described Alyssa as a "vivacious, beautiful, outgoing, spunky soccer player who had such zest for life."
"She was your All-American girl," she said. "She had so much to offer the world and was tragically taken at 14 years old."
Alhadeff urged legislators to take action, but said she is not focusing on gun control laws because the issue is so polarizing. Instead, she is advocating for Alyssa's Law, a proposed law named after her daughter that would require every school to be equipped with a silent panic alarm.
The alarms would have a direct link to law enforcement and get them to scene as soon as possible, along with emergency medical responders, she said.
After her daughter was killed, Alhadeff said she required her sons to wear bullet-proof backpacks to school and taught them how to use them to protect their face and vital organs.
"Alyssa was shot 10 times with an AR-15 gun," she said. "As we saw in the last shooting (in Dayton), in (less than) one minute he killed nine people. These are weapons of war, of mass destruction, so we have to do something more than we're doing now. It's not enough."
Alhadeff ended up at Ipswich Country Club through a connection with In Force Technology, a Wakefield company that reached out to her after Alyssa's death to talk about school security measures. In Force Technology is a sponsor of the Harold Vitale Memorial Golf Tournament, held in memory of a Saugus police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1985 at the age of 42.
Les Vitale, Harold's brother, said it was an "inspiration" to have Alhadeff speak at the tournament. The event will donate at least $7,500 to Alhadeff's Make Our Schools Safe Foundation, he said.
"I said to Lori, 'It'll connect my brother's name with your daughter's name,'" said Vitale, who lives in Peabody. "They can look down with pride and say, 'Wow, look at what they're doing.'"
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.