VOTE NOW FOR THE BEST OF ORLANDO® 2021!

Fourteen people making Orlando a better place 

People we love

Page 13 of 13

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Brandon Wolf

Pulse survivor, gun reform activist

The gravity of everything that happened after June 12 didn't hit Brandon Wolf until he was about to go on stage in front of thousands of people at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

A month earlier, he had been partying with his two best friends, Christopher "Drew" Leinonen and Leinonen's boyfriend, Juan Guerrero, at the gay nightclub Pulse. Leinonen said, "I love you," and told Wolf to always remind others how much he loved them. Then suddenly, Leinonen was gone, along with Guerrero and 47 others who died in the mass shooting during those early morning hours. One moment Wolf, 28, was running, then he was going to funerals, then he was being held by President Barack Obama, who told him it would get better.

Wolf could have hidden inside his home, as many did after the massacre. But instead, he walked onto the DNC stage with Leinonen's mother, Christine, and held her hand as she told people how gun violence had taken away her only son.

"It changed my life forever," he says. "I remember as she was speaking about how it took five minutes to hear a bell toll 49 times, she started to come down. And I looked in to the front row, and I saw this guy, who had rainbow everything on, was sobbing uncontrollably and gave her a standing ovation from start to finish. A few of those moments helped me realize we had to do something. That's what we were here for."

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

He's channeled that passion into the Dru Project, an organization created in memory of Leinonen that builds gay-straight alliances in schools, and becoming one of the most powerful voices in the fight against gun violence. In a couple of weeks, he'll be spending more time in front of Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee as he works to combat the many proposed expansions of gun carry in public places.

"We want the message coming out of Orlando to be one of love and unity," Wolf says. "After Pulse, a lot of people have the same fire burning as I do because they saw what failure to act can do in our community. It's time to stand up and use your voices."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 5, 2021

View more issues

Calendar

© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation