Remembering PULSE: Kentucky philanthropist works to bring healing to Orlando and beyond

by Spencer Jenkins he / him

Five years have passed since a gunman walked into a gay club in Orlando, FL and changed the lives of queer people and allies around the world forever. Pain, mourning and fear has filled the LGBTQ+ community since June 2016, but one Kentucky man is working to bring healing energy into the still raw wound.

Ashland native, now Louisville resident and established philanthropist, JP Davis, was contracted by the onePULSE Foundation in early 2021 to lead their fundraising campaigns for the National Pulse Memorial and Museum. JP Davis founded JP Davis Partners, a fundraising and strategy consulting company in late 2020.

He said he is humbled and honored to play a small part in helping build the foundations project. It has truly been a privilege to meet so many already working hard on this project.

Even with all of the hope that the onePULSE team is instilling in Orlando and the rest of the nation, Davis said he will never forget the day of the tragedy.

“I remember waking to the news, stunned,” he said. “It could have been me, is what I thought and then I thought to myself, it could have been someone I love. Then I thought to myself, oh my god, do I know anyone killed? So many thoughts and emotions went through my head and I was worried I knew someone. I started texting friends of mine, performers, club owners, and others. It all felt so personal. It felt like an attack on my own home.”  

According the onePULSE Foundation website, they are a a 501(c) 3 incorporated by the owner of Pulse nightclub. It was established to create a sanctuary of hope to honor the 49 Angels that were taken, the 68 others who were injured and the countless first responders and healthcare professionals who treated them.

The Angels of Pulse,

Davis said as a Queer person, he thinks it’s important that everyone, including allies, feels this tragedy. Pulse offered a safe and lively space for LGBTQ people, especially Orlando’s Latinx community.

“We can’t normalize shootings or attacks. We can never forget,” he said. “All of us should take personal responsibility for the world around us. Pay attention. Spread kindness. Have empathy when you don’t understand. Lean in.”

It should also be noted that America has had it’s 267 mass shootings since the start of 2021, according to CNN.

The fund that Davis is leading is intended to support a memorial that opens hearts, a museum that opens minds, educational programs that open eyes and legacy scholarships that open doors.

Contributions from generous individuals, foundations, corporations and government entities directly support all of the National Pulse Memorial & Museum design, construction, land acquisition costs, operations, community education programs, and 49 Legacy Scholarships.​ This is a defining mission and healing initiative that we hope inspires supporters who share our vision and understand the solemn and sacred responsibility to which this community has been entrusted.

Orlando is the most visited city in the United States, but Davis said this work extends beyond Orlando city limits.

“I’ll say, for example, a good friend of mine (in Kentucky) has a gay son. He’s 15. At 10 years old, he remembers how tragic the massacre was and asked his Mom to drive him to Orlando to pay respect. It shook him,” he said. “Similarly for me, the killing of Matthew Shepherd shook me to my core, at that age. It will give so many young, future generations LGBTQ hope for the future.  Because the museum will also celebrate all the successes of our community.”

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