With so many people attending March for Our Lives protests in Chicago and Washington, D.C., Gretchen Coleman said she would have been happy if the sister march she helped organize in Schaumburg drew a few hundred people.
A much larger crowd than that showed up Saturday morning to participate in the protest against gun violence. While an exact count wasn't available, the number of protesters far exceeded the 400 people who had signed up.
For Coleman and three other young people who organized the march and rally, it was a message to local politicians that gun laws need to be changed.
"It's really important for us to show that the Northwest suburbs really cares about this," said Coleman, an 18-year-old senior at Fremd High School in Palatine. "If everyone went downtown, no one would know that."
The Schaumburg march was one of several held in the suburbs as part of the worldwide March for Our Lives campaign. The events were organized after a Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and employees were killed there.
Thousands of suburban high school students walked out of classes in protest March 14 as well. Those demonstrations also were part of a nationally coordinated effort.
On Saturday, the list of suburban marches included Downers Grove, Elgin, Glen Ellyn, Huntley, Vernon Hills and Woodstock. More than 800 marches were held across the United States and in Canada, Israel, India, Japan and other nations.
Kate Boon of Arlington Heights said she attended the Schaumburg march because she wanted to voice her support for common-sense laws that reduce and eliminate acts of violence.
She said it was "humbling" to see so many marches on a single day.
"It's kind of exhilarating to see the power that's being expressed by people much younger than me," said Boon, adding that she's never seen anything like it before.
Deb Dionesotes of Roselle said she participated in the Schaumburg march with her three children because she wanted to show them how important the protests were.
"The gun laws that we have are ridiculous," she said. "I really, really hope this is going to make a difference."
Participants at Glen Ellyn's March for Our Lives event ranged from seniors to babies in strollers to middle-school students who walked from Lincoln Elementary School to Glenbard West High School.
"We have to go to school every day obviously, and I feel we shouldn't have to go to school afraid that we may not come home from school ... or that someone could come into our school," 13-year-old Linnea Barron of Glen Ellyn said as she waited for the march to start.
Her classmate Olivia Malahy added, "We just want to show that we're here and we're this country's future. We want to show we can make an impact too. Just because we're 14 doesn't mean we can't do something."
Three local churches collaborated on the event, which hit home for the Rev. Kendra Joyner-Miller, associate minister at First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn. She was studying theology in Brooktown, Connecticut, when 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in neighboring Newtown were killed by a gunman in 2012.
"I have a very distinct memory of the pain it costs when lives are lost. We're at a point when we need more than thoughts and prayers. We need policy change," she said. "I'm really grateful for the students and I feel sad it's taken high school students speaking up for us to rally behind this and understand our attitude toward guns in this country is not OK."
Laura Collins of Wheaton brought her 3-year-old, Riley Barnes, to participate.
"You have to do something … you can't just say, 'Oh, that's terrible,'" Collins said. "And I want to set an example for her -- that you have to stand up."
DePaul University student Hadiya Afzal, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, was one of several speakers who rallied the crowd.
"It should be unacceptable that students in the United States are dying in their own classrooms. We march to call on our (lawmakers) to do their job and pass legislation that will protect us. We know that gun control works," she said.
Before the march in Elgin, the large crowd lined Kimball Street south of the Gail Borden library. Many of the protesters carried signs with messages like "Stop the NRA" and "Enough is Enough." Some passing motorists honked their horns in support.
Eleanor Sams of St. Charles said she's hoping that politicians realize that there are a lot of people who want change.
"We're not going to let them sit down and do nothing about it," said Sams, a 17-year-old senior at St. Charles East High School. "We want to be safe in our schools. We want to be safe in cities and movie theaters."
Emma Cork, an 18-year-old senior at Bartlett High School, said marching was just the beginning of what she plans to do. She said she will vote to make her voice heard.
"It's not a moment," the Elgin resident said. "It's a movement."