Local teen turns tragedy into awareness, honors brother’s memory

Shelby Moreno with her dad, stepmom, sister and brother James, along with their family dog Baylee.

A senior at Sunnyvale High School is turning a tragic moment in her family’s lives into awareness.

As part of her school project, Shelby Moreno is helping to bring awareness and raise money to mental health and suicide prevention with the sale of T-shirts through Nov. 10. The proceeds help support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Moreno was driven to this cause because of an incident on May 6, 2018, in Rowlett in which 40-year-old Policarpo Gonzales-Flores shot his 11-year-old son James, and then shot himself. James was Moreno’s step-brother.

James was a sixth-grader at Coyle Middle School at the time.

Moreno said James’ mother, Nikki, met her father Paul when they were all still fairly young, and the children from both families grew close over the years.

“I’m a strong believer in the fact that blood doesn’t define family, and that you get to chose who you call family, and my step-mom and siblings are the reason why I believe in that so firmly,” she said.

This tragic moment in their lives forever impacted them.

“It’s sad to say, but through this incident I grew closer to my own family,” Moreno said. “Instead of growing apart and deteriorating on our own, we all helped each other recover. We all went on many vacations together that summer to spread James’ ashes across the world. We went to Iceland, Spain, Amsterdam, Mexico, and so many more places. My step-mom still carries around his stuffed bear from when he was a kid. His name is Blue Bear.”

“On all of her vacations, casual Sundays and to work, he is with her to remind her that James will always be by her side and in her heart. We have even gotten trees planted in his name by my friends who met James on a ski trip one year, and we recently got a brick in Fair Park in honor of him. So many great things have come from him,” she continued.

Moreno added that some of James’ organs were donated, and as a result, many people got to live better lives because of him.

“Someone was even able to see again because of him,” she said. “And I know in my heart he would’ve been so happy and proud he was able to make such an impact on someone’s life.”

Moreno wanted to bring awareness to mental health and let people know it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.

“Since starting my project, I have realized that some of the people I know, even my own friends, have dealt with incidents caused by mental health or suicide – nothing I would ever know about unless I had started this project,” she said. “I want everyone to know that they don’t have to be afraid anymore. I want others to know that I want the best for others so that no one else has to go through what my family and I did. Who knows? Maybe if James’ father had been in counseling or had someone to talk to he might not have done what he did. But, sadly, we will never know his thought, emotions, or intentions.”

Moreno’s T-shirts for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can be purchased at customink.com/fundraising/suicide-and-mental-health-awareness.

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