Free mental health services offered to parade-goers, first responders


HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — Therapists from Family Service of Lake County are offering free counseling to first responders and anyone who attended the Highland Park parade.

As gunfire rang out along Central Avenue in Highland Park on Monday, therapist Reggie Handy was at home barbecuing with his family in Waukegan.

“I got a text message from one of my co-workers saying ‘we might need hands-on-deck tonight, there was a shooting that happened at the parade in Highland Park,’” therapist Reggie Handy said.

Handy rushed to the area, but couldn’t get through police barricades. On Tuesday, Handy and his co-workers at Family Service of Lake County began to meet with those who witnessed the shooting and needed help processing the trauma.

“We lifted her up off the stairs, put her up on the top,” said parade volunteer Tom Perrella. “By the time we got to her on the stairs, she had passed away.”

Handy said a story of what a public works employee saw has stuck with him all week.

“He said when he was setting up the stage, he made eye contact with the person who did the shooting,” Handy said. “Not knowing he said he thought it was some female observing them put the stage up to get a spot for the parade.”

It was around 9:45 a.m., just before the parade started.

“What I recognize in him is survivor’s guilt, survivor’s remorse,” Handy said. “‘What I could have done? what I should have done?’”

Family Service of Lake County is offering free walk-in counseling at 777 Central Ave., at City Hall and at Highland Park High School. Additionally, therapists are responding to businesses along the parade route to speak with employees.

“A lot of the storefronts and businesses that were open it was really hard for them because people ran in there hiding and trying to be safe,” Executive Director Nancy Sawle-Knobloch said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for victims of the shooting via GoFundMe and other measures.

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