Cut down by several shots, Joaquin Oliver died in the hallway of the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
He would’ve turned 22 on Thursday, so his parents are throwing him a party in the metaverse. Patricia and Manuel Oliver said it's a unique way to get their gun safety message to the millions of teenagers and young adults who use the Roblox gaming platform.
"Hi, I’m Joaquin, thank you for joining me at Guacathon," says the avatar which looks uncannily like the real Joaquin. "Today is my 22nd birthday and I’m excited to have you celebrate with me at this extraordinary experience."
It feels like Joaquin, whose nickname was Guac, is reaching out from the great beyond. He's the host of a virtual event called Guacathon, with video games and a concert by the rapper Denzel Curry.
"This is a new thing, this is trying something new, along with a celebration of the life of our son, so I’m happy that we are the ones that can provide these new experiences to the whole movement against gun violence, I’m happy that Joaquin is that leading voice when it comes to bringing something new to the picture," Manuel Oliver said. “So every time we see personification of our son, we love it, you have to see this avatar."
"We want to remember that we have a huge issue about gun violence every single day, so the fact that Joaquin is gonna be the host in all these experiences will let everybody know that Joaquin is still working for something,” Patricia Oliver said.
Of course, the Guacathon is happening while the sentencing trial of the gunman is proceeding. Through tears, Patricia Oliver delivered a victim statement on Monday.
"Our life has been shattered and changed forever,” she said to the jury.
Oliver said attending the trial means learning gut-wrenching things.
"But we didn’t know in details how it was behind the scenes, so it’s been getting worse and worse in terms of feelings, because really, it’s horrific," Patricia Oliver said.
So the Olivers would rather celebrate their son’s life, as creatively as possible.
"We cannot bring Joaquin back, let’s be very clear, I wish we had that power, I wish we had that technology to do that, there is none, but we can bring his message through different ways," Manuel Oliver said.
In one part of the animation, Joaquin’s avatar says, “If you’d like to learn more about me or have any questions, you can head to the info booth, thanks for coming and a have a fantastic time."
The Guacathon starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday on Roblox.
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