Cantor helps families of Stoneman Douglas students

Debbi Ballard, an independent cantor, says she couldn’t just sit around watching the news after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, so she did something about it.

Ballard, whose website is mypersonalcantor.com, volunteered to help console families who gathered in a ballroom at the Marriott Coral Springs Hotel, Golf Club & Convention Center.  The families were in limbo, not knowing if their loved ones had survived the shooting.

She estimates there were 15 to 20 families in the room, although it was difficult to tell just how many there were. The room was also filled with clergy, FBI agents, sheriff’s deputies and the Red Cross. Family members were asked to send photos of their loved ones and their contact information to a special email address set up by the FBI.

Law enforcement agencies faced a challenge identifying victims because many of them were not carrying IDs. Some of them were freshmen who may not have had driver licenses, and female victims may have left purses in their lockers.

Ballard tried to comfort people and keep them occupied while they were waiting for any news. She said two families she was with were fortunate that their loved ones were safe, but one of her colleagues had two families with victims.

The experience was like being in hell, she said on a phone call on Thursday. Between 7:30 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday, there were no signs that family members had received news.

“You just knew this calm was the calm of hell,” she said. “It was between hope and tragedy and people didn’t know which end of the spectrum you were on.”

Ballard said she didn’t want to make a political statement, but “I’m tired of the status quo. I’m tired of leaving everything in the hands of politicians…  We have to come together as a community and start doing something. That’s something that I want to encourage people to do… It starts with how we vote.”



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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.