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Austin-based non-profit honors Lives Robbed

Texas Gun Sense
Lives Robbed board members (left to right) Berlinda Arreola, Kimberly Mata-Rubio, Gloria Cazares, and Veronica Mata with the Frances Schenkkan Advocate of the Year Award.

Uvalde-based Lives Robbed board members were in Austin on Wednesday, Nov. 8, to accept the Frances Schenkkan Advocate of the Year Award, presented by Texas Gun Sense.

Their heroism, bravery and gun violence prevention advocacy efforts as well as their national recognition were some of the leading factors in the selection process, said Texas Gun Sense executive director Nicole Golden. She said the honoree is decided by the organization’s board of directors. 

Lives Robbed president and co-founder Kimberly Mata-Rubio accepted the award. Lives Robbed board members Berlinda Arreola, Gloria Cazares, and Veronica Mata were also present. The women lost step-granddaughter Amerie Jo Garza and daughters Lexi Rubio, Jackie Cazares, and Tess Mata, respectively, in the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary.

About 100 people were at the fundraising event, “A Safer Texas: Celebrating Successes and Charting a Bold Future,” held in at the event space at KMFA 89.5 Studios. 

The award comes after a year of advocacy work for Lives Robbed who fought relentlessly during the 88th-Texas Legislature for common sense gun reform, traveling weekly to Austin, a 3.5 hour round trip from Uvalde. Their work – protesting, speaking, holding press conferences- was at times met with challenges. 

In April of 2023, 11 months after the Robb Elementary shooting that claimed the lives of 19 fourth-graders and two teachers, Lives Robbed members alongside other Uvalde family members, waited approximately 13 hours to testify in support of the “Raise the Age” bill, also known as House Bill 2744, during a committee hearing. The bill was voted out of committee but ultimately failed after missing a key deadline.

“We were honored to receive the 2023 Frances Schenkkan Advocate of the Year Award in recognition of our advocacy for a Safer Texas. We fought hard this past legislative session and we will keep fighting,” Lives Robb members wrote on social media. 

Texas Gun Sense, founded in 2013, is a non-profit organization that advocates for gun violence prevention including policy research. It was founded by the award’s namesake, Frances Schenkkan and co-founder Juno Woods. Schenkkan, an award-winning writer and poet, was the first recipient of the award. This is the second year that Texas Gun Sense has presented the award. 

Austin-based Dr. Tatiana Cardenas, who has been on the frontlines of gun violence as a trauma surgeon, spoke during the event about treating victims from the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting that claimed the lives of 26 people and wounded 22 others. She also spoke about colleagues in Uvalde and San Antonio being on alert for receiving a large number victims of the Robb Elementary school shooting, but they never came, Golden said. 

Other speakers included Saami Baig, co-executive director of March For Our Lives in Houston, and Texas Rep. Vikki Goodwin.

Texas Gun Sense
Texas Gun Safety co-founder Frances Schenkkan (right) presents the Frances Schenkkan Advocate of the Year Award to Kimberly Mata-Rubio, president and co-founder of Uvalde-based Lives Robbed. Schenkkan received the first award, which was named in her honor, last year. Mata-Rubio and her fellow Lives Robbed board members were in Austin on Wednesday, Nov. 8 for the Texas Gun Sense annual fundraiser and award presentation.