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Family of shooting victim launches foundation to support mental health awareness

Brother, father of Paul Lee seek solutions to campus shootings


The family of a Westview High School graduate fatally shot on the campus of Seattle Pacific University on June 5 is channeling its grief into a foundation dedicated to preventing future school shootings by shedding light on mental health problems.

The parents and siblings of Paul Lee, 19, a 2013 Westview graduate who was fatally wounded when a man opened fire on the Seattle Pacific campus, on Friday announced the formation of the Paul Lee Foundation, a nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness and resources for those struggling with mental or emotional health problems.

Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, of Mountlake Terrace, Wash., is accused of opening fire with a shotgun, killing Lee and wounding two other students in the June 5 tragedy. Ybarra allegedly struggled with mental health and substance abuse problems.

"With a desire to study psychology and support those in need, Paul was killed by the very kind of person he wanted to help," said Angela Pyo, the new foundation's director of operations and communications. "Instead of responding in anger, the Lee family has decided to use these tragic circumstances to inspire change."

The foundation, which has already collected thousands of dollars in donations, plans to partner with Seattle Pacific University to target depression and stress among college students.

Dr. Dan Martin, president of the Seattle-based Christian university, discussed the foundation in a memorial service for Lee on Sunday at Village Baptist Church that hundreds of friends and family members attended.

"Paul had a heart for helping people and a dream to study psychology," he said. "Tragically, his life was ended by the very kind of person he would have wanted to help."

The foundation's first project, he said, will involve a Seattle Pacific faculty member researching depression and stress among college students with the goal of developing preventive and intervention programs. Martin encouraged audience members to contribute to the foundation.

"With your help, we can address the gaps and limits of our understanding of mental health," he said.

Albert Lee, Paul's older brother, expressed appreciation for the rapid outpouring of interest.

“We are so overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received from the community near and far,” said Albert Lee. “If we could even save one life, we would consider this foundation to have achieved what we started it for. Please continue to stand with us as we tackle this important issue.”

Paul's father, Peter, agreed that mental health issues are often misunderstood, underfunded and stigmatized.

"People who are wounded can hurt others, and easily hurt themselves,” he said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one out of every four Americans suffers from diagnosable mental disorders. Albert Lee cited what he calls the "staggering" statistic of 74 school shootings in the past 18 months, according to Every Town for Gun Safety.

“If we could even save one life, we would consider this foundation to have achieved what we started it for," Lee said.

For its first project, foundation members seek to partner with Seattle Pacific University to focus on depression and stress among college students.

The Lee family is committed to mental health in the memory of Paul, who Albert said loved to dance, cook, hang out with his friends and "had a heart for people and a gift for knowing when others needed support."

Peter Lee says Paul used his love of dancing to connect with people and “give peace” to them and himself.

“This foundation is a way to continue what Paul has already been doing," Peter said. "And we will put in an all-out effort to offer help to those in need, just as Paul had done throughout his life."