Talking Points Kicks Off with Gun Safety Advocate

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Fred Guttenberg

Perhaps the worst nightmare for any parent is to learn your child has been shot in school. Fred Guttenberg’s nightmare started on Valentine’s Day, 2018, when his 14-year-old daughter Jaime was shot and killed at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On January 28 at 4 p.m., BIG ARTS Talking Points will launch its 2021 season with a virtual conversation with Fred Guttenberg. The talk will be the first in a six-week series of topical and engaging talks.

Guttenberg will describe his journey as a grieving parent searching for ways to give meaning to Jaime’s senseless death, to advocate to make schools safer and to fight for gun safety, and to author an inspiring new book, Find the Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope.

During his talk, Guttenberg will offer practical advice for parents and school officials to reduce the risk of gun violence impacting children and explain how he overcame his grief through the humanity of others.

Guttenberg’s professional life includes over a decade of experience in sales and management with Johnson & Johnson, followed by almost 15 years as an entrepreneur, having built a business of 19 Dunkin Donuts, which he sold in November 2016. Guttenberg was hoping to take time to relax before figuring out his next endeavor. Then the first tragedy struck.

Guttenberg’s brother Michael, one of the original first responders during 9/11 at the World Trade Center with a team of doctors, got trapped in the WTC as it collapsed. Amazingly, Michael and his team survived and spent 16 days at Ground Zero caring for others. Tragically, as a result of the Ground Zero exposure, Michael was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in October 2017,

While Guttenberg was mourning the death of his brother, tragedy struck again in February 2018 when Jaime was one of 17 victims murdered in the Parkland school shooting.

“From that day forward, my life was forever changed,” said Guttenberg. While grieving, Guttenberg found himself unable to stand still. The day after the murder, he attended a vigil and was asked to speak. “That was the start of my new life as an advocate for public safety.”

Guttenberg now spends time urging elected officials to do more to prevent gun violence. He is a regular on TV news programs and is interviewed regularly by the online and print media.

But perhaps his greatest achievement is helping others learn how to cope with grief. Guttenberg will focus on the lessons of healing, which include the importance of helping others move forward. A limited number of his book Find the Helpers have been donated to MacIntosh Books & Paper, 2330 Palm Ridge Rd #6 on Sanibel. Ticket holders are eligible to receive a complimentary copy while supplies last by showing the receipt for their ticket.

Beginning January 28, Talking Points sessions will take place on Thursdays at 4 p.m. and offer a range of topics including school and gun safety, how to detect fake news, Internet privacy, race relations in Southwest Florida, reducing one’s “carbon footprint,” and cooking at home.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, most of this season’s speakers will make virtual appearances and not be physically present in the hall. Participants can live stream the sessions from home. During or following the talk, they will be able to text questions and comments to the speaker. Tickets are available for purchase through the box office at 239-395-0900. Box office hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, visit the BIG ARTS web site.

BIG ARTS, established in 1979, is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing quality artistic, cultural and educational experiences to Sanibel and Captiva residents and visitors. Visit to learn more about our upcoming 2021 Season, and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook!

BIG ARTS is practicing the highest standards of safety during this challenging time. All visitors are required to wear masks throughout the facility. Please be sure to put on your mask before entering the building. We ask that you are mindful of physical distancing. With physical distancing precautions in mind, BIG ARTS is selling only 50% of the seats in Christensen Performance Hall. Until further notice, only 200 seats will be available for any event in the Hall, and a maximum of 25 people will be allowed in the gallery at any given time. BIG ARTS has enhanced its air filtration system, all surfaces are wiped down between use, a professional sanitation fogger is being used after each gathering, and there are hand sanitation “stations” throughout the ground floor.

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