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#TOStrong: Community Unites to Grieve, Honor & Help

The tragedy at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks last November rocked the community to its core, transforming its persona as one of America’s safest cities into one of national notoriety where yet another mass shooting claimed the lives of innocent people.

As news of the unthinkable quickly spread throughout the community and nation during the early morning hours on Nov. 8, one thing was very clear—our community had been forever changed by this senseless killing. Collectively, as the community absorbed the shock and began to mourn, an outpouring of emotion and support from people near and far flooded in. Heartfelt, tearful vigils held at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Cal Lutheran University and Peppertree Park filled to capacity with people grieving together to help ease the pain of this sudden and horrific tragedy and pay tribute to the 12 victims, which included several college students and Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus.

In the days and weeks following the shooting, many local businesses and organizations held fundraisers to benefit the victims’ families. Among them was Azar’s Sports Bar in Newbury Park, where two of the shooting victims, Sean Adler and Justin Meek, had also worked as security guards.

“Thank you to everyone that participated (I cannot name them all) in the fundraiser for Justin Meek and Sean Adler’s families at Azar's Sports Bar,” says Azar’s owner Geno Azar. “I am humbled at how the community has come together and given! The families appreciate it very much.”

The well-attended Azar’s benefit events featured line dancing in the parking lot, a dozen local bands donating their time, and raffle prizes, raising much-needed funds for the victims’ families and providing an opportunity for locals to gather and share their grief.

NABU Wines in Westlake Village hosted a benefit for the victims’ families on Nov. 25, featuring local Fleetwood Mac tribute band Twisted Gypsy. The band, who often played at the Borderline and lost six friends in the shooting, headlined a packed house at the donation-based event. The benefit also featured auctions and raffle prizes, plus Borderline memorial shirts made by Newbury Park company Eastwind Screenprint to raise money and show support for the families affected.

507 Coffee House in Thousand Oaks, Westlake Golf Course, Bandits Grill and Bar, Ameci Pizza, Sunland Vintage Winery Tasting Room, Outback Steakhouse and many more local establishments have offered their support by hosting benefits and fundraisers for the families.

The Newbury Park High School Theatre Arts program hosted a community sing-along benefit as part of their “Little Shop of Horrors” performance, with all proceeds going to Ventura County Community Foundation for families affected by the Borderline shooting and the wildfires, which started less than 24 hours later. Local Conejo Players Theatre also hosted a special benefit show, “Conejo Strong: A Vaudeville Revue,” in response to the back to back shooting and fires. The family-friendly show featured song, dance, magic and comedy, and all ticket sales went to the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victims Fund.

This month on Jan. 12, REO Speedwagon will donate all proceeds from their concert in the Fred Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza to the Ventura County Community Foundation to benefit victims of the Borderline shooting and the devastating Woolsey wildfire.

“Who can imagine those two disasters happening on top of each other? It’s a tough one for sure,” says lead singer Kevin Cronin, of Westlake Village. “There’s a feeling of empathy that you get any time there’s a disaster, but when it happens close to home, there’s a different level of emotional connection. It definitely hit hard,” he adds, noting the band has added a second show on Jan. 13.

“It will be a different thing,” says Cronin. “Obviously we want to give people a good show with all the hits that they’ve come to know and love, but there will definitely be an aspect of the show honoring the memories of the people who were so senselessly murdered at the Borderline as well as finding a way to benefit people who have been left homeless. … We’re going to do our part in the best way we know how.”

While the community has been forever scarred, by uniting and supporting each another, we will endure. As Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox noted during a community vigil at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, "…we are a community of love, of compassion and of unity. We're also a community of hope."

In Memoriam

Sean Adler, 48

Blake Dingham, 21

Jacob Dunham, 21

Cody Gifford-Coffman, 22

Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, 54

Alaina Housley, 18

Daniel Manrique, 33

Justin Meek, 23

Mark Meza, 20

Kristina Morisette, 20

Telemachus "Tel" Orfanos, 27

Noel Sparks, 21