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Young gun violence victims hold rally

August 7, 2009 2:56:33 PM PDT
Some of the youngest victims of gun violence shared their stories Friday in hopes of stopping the bloodshed. They were brought together Saturday morning at a South Side community center.It was an emotional experience for a few of the participants. After all, it was the first time the children and their families were getting together to speak out against gun violence and share their stories. It was clear that some families were still struggling either emotionally or physically with the violence that has touched them.

A prayer was offered for the children of gun violence that are not always seen like 5-year-old Martrell Stevenson. Confined to a wheelchair since being shot last year outside his grandmother's Chicago home, the grader-school walked for the first time in July 2009, and Friday, he gladly shared a simply message.

"Stop the shooting, stop the violence," Stevenson.

The other faces of survivors, the many children caught in the crossfire of rival gangs and neighborhood disputes, aren't the only ones left scared by the gun violence.

"I've been able to deal with it as best I can, but there's not a day when I don't think about it," said Renita Williams, parent of shooting victim.

"We're here just to support everybody and show that you can continue to make it," parent Ivan Woodard said.

Even though Woodard's 13-year-old daughter, Abriana Turner, has been told not to dance anymore. Doctors say, with a gunman's bullet still lodged near her optical nerve, doing what she loves means it's just not safe and could cause blindness.

The stories of violence that forever link the children and families also brought them together for the first time. Community activist Andrew Holmes passed out school supplies and Bibles to support the children's education and spirits.

"Many of these kids, I've been the first one on the scene when they've been hit by these guns," said Andrew Holmes, director of No Guns, No Violence. "They've been holding my hands. I've been in the hospital with them. I've been in surgery with them. I visit them every so often, but I stay in contact with them, and now I want the family to bond together."

While Cathy Haywood, another young shooting victim, may be healing quickly physically, the emotional wounds of being attacked outside her West Side home are taking a little longer. She's doesn't want to admit to being afraid.

"Not a lot but [I am] a little nervous to go to school and come back home," Haywood told ABC7 Chicago.

For many of the children at Friday's event, that kind of fear is very real. Many of the parents Friday also said they have become overly protective of their children and say it's hard not to be reminded of gun violence when you hear about it almost every day.

Organizers say they hope to have another get-together, but say its said most likely that meeting will have more families in attendance.


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