Everyday Hero: Lake Howell teacher, students continue to remember Pulse

By Stephanie Bechara, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017, 12:24 PM EDT

A piece of plastic and some metal backing is having a big impact in Central Florida — and it's all thanks to one special teacher.

  • Lake Howell theater teacher makes buttons to remember Pulse
  • James Brendlinger's students help make the buttons, as well
  • So far, about 15,000 buttons have been distributed

This week's Everyday Hero is inspiring his troupe of students to give back.

If you have been to Pulse nightclub, you might have come across a container filled with buttons. You might have even taken one.

James Brendlinger, a theater teacher at Lake Howell High School, started putting out the buttons after the June 12, 2016, terror attack.

"The first time we did it, it was meant to be a one-time thing," he said. "And one of my friends told me (the) basket is sitting empty (at Pulse). So ... I took more, and I was like, if I leave a note, people can let me know if it's turned into an ongoing thing."

The buttons read as follows: "Orlando Strong More Love Less Hate."

The bucket at Pulse gets refilled every two weeks. So far, they've been able to put out 15,000 buttons.

Brendlinger doesn't do it alone, though. Students in his theater classes come in on their own time — even during their summer break — to help create the buttons.

"When you eventually get to see what's happening, at the end of the line of this production, it becomes so worth it to be putting all of your time into this," said Lauren Herwitz, one of Brendlinger's students. "Even though it's one little button, it's a bond we can all share."

Added Brendlinger: "I am so proud of our city. ... I think that after the Pulse tragedy happened, we just felt the whole city pulling together, which is not necessarily what happens just anywhere. I think Orlando has really been special that way. And to have my students and myself be able to have a small part in all of this is amazing."

It doesn't stop at the buttons. The thespians have a 5,000-square-foot warehouse where they store costumes, props and scripts. They make sure the massive space stays organized and coordinate so that the resources can be lent out to other schools, theaters and churches.

Students of Troupe 4937 say Brendlinger is the inspiration that keeps them going.

"We look at him as more than just a teacher who is a friend," student Veronica Carcasona said. "He does so much for our theater company, and anything that we can do to give back to him — it's just something so awesome to have."

The students said they will continue to play a not-so-small part in remembering Pulse.

"As long as the Pulse site remains a memorial as it is now and this is welcomed there, we will continue doing it," Brendlinger said.

Click here to learn more about the Lake Howell Theater Company.