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UTSA and Whataburger Collaborate With Community To Provide Free Mental Wellness Services For Sutherland Springs Area

November 22, 2017 -- To provide support to Sutherland Springs and surrounding communities as they go through the process of healing after the November 5 shooting tragedy, Whataburger has pledged $150,000 to support counseling and wellness services in partnership with The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Academy for Crisis and Trauma Counseling.

UTSA and its team of nationally renowned mental health professionals will collaborate with local community leaders and hold meetings with the community next week to listen and identify the best location, times and services needed.

“Faculty, staff and students at UTSA recognize there are tremendous needs within the Sutherland Springs and neighboring communities as they deal with this tragedy. We are dedicated to working with area partners and local officials to provide our neighbors any support we can, and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of all those impacted by these horrific events,” said Dr. Thelma Duffey, chair of the UTSA Department of Counseling and co-director of the academy.

The academy, based within the university’s Department of Counseling, along with UTSA’s Sarabia Family Counseling Center, will coordinate and bring free services and programs to the community. Through this partnership, the team will work with the Sutherland Springs community and local officials, including Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt, Jr. and Wilson County District Attorney Audrey Louis, on evolving needs during recovery.

Community partners, including the Children’s Bereavement Center, The DoSeum and Region 20 Education Service Center, will also play a critical role in bringing joy back into children’s lives.

Duffey will lead this initiative with Dr. Shane Haberstroh, co-director of the academy, and faculty members within the UTSA Department of Counseling. Duffey and UTSA faculty worked with counselors, teachers and families in Newtown, Conn. after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“The UTSA community is saddened by this tragedy that hit so close to home. We are fortunate to have faculty experts in the field of crisis and trauma, and proud that UTSA is part of this partnership to provide resources for healing and recovery,” said Dr. Taylor Eighmy, President at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The Academy will also focus on gathering community stakeholders and experts together to develop strategies and a framework that can be used to assist other communities who may face similar tragedies and possibly help prevent future tragedies.

“The horror and sadness has marked our hearts forever, and we’ll never forget those 26 lives ended much too soon. The road ahead is long, but we want Sutherland Springs to know we’re with them,” said Whataburger Chairman Tom Dobson. “We’re fortunate to have the best minds in the nation right here at UTSA’s Academy for Crisis and Trauma Counseling, and appreciate their willingness to help this community heal.”

Whataburger’s $150,000 contribution will cover costs to support the services provided directly to the Sutherland Springs and surrounding communities. Services will include clinical specialists, supervisors and outreach programs to provide respite and promote healing within the community. More details will be available here following next week’s community meetings.


Learn how to support the Sutherland Springs Crisis and Trauma efforts

Learn more about UTSA Department of Counseling

Learn more about the UTSA Sarabia Family Counseling Center

Learn more about Thelma Duffey

Learn more about Shane Haberstroh



Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio with more than 900 locations across its 14-state footprint and sales of more than $3 billion annually. Whataburger is a 2022 Top Workplaces winner. The brand has more than 50,000 Family Members (employees) and more than 60 million customers who like to customize their Whataburgers just like they like it. Visit for more information. To apply for Whataburger jobs, visit

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