Wake up with a Smile

Join our newsletter

Generous Father And Son Honor Uvalde Victims By Crafting 19 Custom Caskets.

Nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one. The agony is especially intense when you’ve lost a child in a senseless act of violence.

The Uvalde, Texas community is still reeling from the deaths of 21 people, 19 of whom are children, in a school shooting in May 2022. As they prepare to bury the victims, funeral resources were stretched beyond capacity in the small town. Trey Ganem is one professional who answered the call for help from the Texas Funeral Directors Association.

Trey used to build custom cars, but switched over to making custom caskets about 11 years ago. He started a business called SoulShine Industries in Edna, Texas, about two-and-a-half hours from Uvalde. In 2016, his son Billy Ganem joined him.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Trey and Billy have stepped up to make caskets for victims of a mass shooting. They also pitched in five years ago for victims of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting. No matter how many times they help grieving families, the job never gets easier, but Trey takes comfort in knowing that he’s easing a bit of the families’ burdens.

“It has been an extremely emotional roller coaster for me,” Trey told BuzzFeed in a phone interview. “I don’t even know if you can hear my voice. I haven’t hollered at all, but I’m losing my voice, for whatever reason.”

It took a village to prepare the caskets. Large quantities of child-sized caskets are rarely kept in stock, so Trey had to scramble to order some from a manufacturer in Georgia. The manufacturer understood the urgency, working for 20 hours straight to complete the order. A friend’s trucking company picked up the caskets and drove 26 hours round-trip to get them back to SoulShine.

Once they had arrived, Billy and Trey got to work personalizing each and every one. They worked for 2 days with hardly any rest. In the days before the work began, Trey met with each family to learn about the victims, a process he found both painful and cathartic. He says families really “light up” when they’re talking about their loved ones.

“Being able to go to the homes is something that is very emotional for me,” Trey said. “It is not a box anymore. It is a beautiful creation that represents the loved ones.”

About a dozen volunteers came to the shop to help paint, sand, and apply vinyl to the caskets. They helped transport the caskets back to Uvalde in two large trucks. Trey and Billy ultimately hand-painted custom caskets for 19 victims, including 18 children and one adult teacher.

SoulShine Industries normally charges $3,400 to $3,800 for a customized casket, but they waived 100% of their fees for these grieving families.

“We’re here to try to make a hard time a little easier,” Bill said. “There‚Äôs nothing we can really ever do to make it easier, but that’s our goal: To help the families … start their grieving and their healing and just try to make something special for them.”

We so appreciate all of the people who have donated their time, resources, and energy to ease the pain of grieving families in Uvalde. They’re a shining example of the good in the world, an example we need now more than ever before.

Share this story to thank SoulShine Industries for their artistry and kindness.

Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.