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Community rallies around family of Florida school shooting victim

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    This undated photo shows Chris Hixon, athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Hixon was killed when former student Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the school on Wednesday.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

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    Hixon

An Oregon gymnastics club is helping one of its coaches travel to Florida after her brother was killed in the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Chris Hixon, 49, was the athletic director and wrestling coach at the school. He was one of 17 people killed by former student and confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19. His sister, Natalie Hixon of Luna Pier, Mich., is a physical education teacher at Bedford Junior High School and has coached gymnastics at the Oregon club for more than a year.

“We’re a close-knit family,” said Melissa Miller, owner and head coach of the club. “It’s more than gymnastics. We just felt the need to help.”

n3hixon-jpg

This undated photo shows Chris Hixon, athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Hixon was killed when former student Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the school on Wednesday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Ms. Miller and two parents of gymnasts, Kristy Stewart and Devon Druckenmiller, set up an online fund-raiser at GoFundMe.com/flyhighchrishixon seeking to raise $10,000 for travel-related expenses for Ms. Hixon and her three children. The funds may also be used to help additional members of her family travel to Florida for Mr. Hixon’s funeral.

“We’re just trying to help out Natalie as much as possible,” Mrs. Stewart said. “And her family is all spread out. If her family needs help, then she can help them as best she can. We don’t want them to have to worry.”

As of Friday afternoon, the effort had raised more than $5,500. Ms. Miller said most of the donations have come from complete strangers.

“It’s definitely incredible, the amount of support we’re feeling from everybody,” she said.

Bedford Public Schools has also taken up a collection in the district and has shared the gymnastics club’s fund-raiser. The proceeds from a 50/50 raffle at the varsity basketball game Friday are also earmarked for Ms. Hixon, whom Superintendent Carl Shultz called a “very well-respected, energetic teacher” beloved by students.

“It hits us very hard as educators,” he said. “And then when you find out one of your own is deeply affected by it, you wrap your arms around them. We’ll do everything we can to support her and her family, both now and into the future.”

Ms. Hixon couldn’t be reached for comment, but Ms. Miller said she is still in shock and is grateful for the assistance.

“She’s very, very thankful,” Ms. Miller said. “She’s stunned.”

Mrs. Stewart said Ms. Hixon is continuing to work and will attend a gymnastics competition this weekend before departing immediately afterward for Florida.

“She’s phenomenal,” Mrs. Stewart said. “She teaches the kids to persevere and never give up. She’s very strong. Natalie is the type of person who doesn’t ask for help, so this is something we wanted to do for her.”

Contact Alexandra Mester at: amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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