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Mass Shooting Survivors Find Unexpected Solace And Friendship In This Popular Game.

Fragrance Harris Stanfield and Toy Benefield playing Bingo

“It could have been me, I could have walked right out into it.”

It’s a thought that has gone through Toy Benefield’s mind every day since the awful day last May when a gunman walked into her workplace and killed 10 people. Three others were injured, and dozens more were left shaken and traumatized to their cores.

Toy was working at Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York on the day of the racially-motivated attack. While she survived with no physical injuries, she’s been dealing with depression, anxiety, and survivor’s guilt ever since. She’s not alone – many of the employees are in the same boat, although they’re seldom mentioned among the shooter’s victims.

For a while, Toy was in group therapy with other Tops employees. Her friend Fragrance Harris Stanfield is another survivor, and the two grew closer through the sessions.

“After those sessions were over, everyone said, ‘We’re really going to miss being with each other,'” Fragrance told Good Morning America. “That was one of the highlights because we just had so much fun and just the camaraderie of playing a game with your co-workers.”

That’s when someone suggested Bingo.

Toy had been to Bingo night at the Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Buffalo years earlier. After group therapy ended, she started going regularly, this time with Fragrance and whomever else wants to join in. Every Tuesday night, she joins about 150 other players for the simple yet satisfying game. They find it to be a peaceful activity that allows them to chat while getting their mind off heavier topics.

“It’s not something where you always have to come up with a conversation piece because you’re doing something,” Fragrance said. “You’re busy, like your brain is busy doing something, but you’re also there with each other. It’s just a moment to let your shoulders down.”

“It’s a heavy situation to live with,” Fragrance continued. “It’s not that you wish you died. It’s not that you have remorse that you lived. It’s that you are living with this and you have to find a way in your mind to be OK with that. You have to be OK with the fact that you’ve made it out.”

Fragrance is still going to individual therapy sessions, but the weekly Bingo nights have helped her come out of her shell and trust the world again. Toy agrees, adding that Bingo is the perfect distraction for their brains, allowing them to finally relax and just enjoy the company of friends.

“Coming here, our minds are focused,” Toy said. “It’s like everything else is just blocked all out. We’re just in the moment.”

It’s hard to imagine how you carry on after witnessing such a horrifying event, but we’re glad to see these survivors taking charge of their mental health in such a positive way. We never would have thought Bingo could have such a powerful impact on a person’s wellbeing!

Share this story to send your best wishes to Fragrance, Toy, and all of the other people whose lives were touched by this awful tragedy.

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