Holiday celebration brings survivors of tragedy together in Englewood

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Saturday, December 31, 2022
Holiday celebration brings survivors of tragedy together
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Andrew Holmes hosted a holiday party for families touched by gun violence and other tragedies Friday at the Salvation Army in Englewood.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A special gathering for those who have suffered tremendous loss took place in Chicago Friday after it was delayed by weather last weekend.

Andrew Holmes hosted a party for families touched by gun violence and other tragedies to make their holiday season a little brighter.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse along with dozens of families and loved ones came together at the Salvation Army Red Shield Center in Englewood to celebrate and create a community of support and strength.

"The house where I was living at caught on fire Christmas Day," said Julio Avila.

Avila, his wife and three children were put out on the street Christmas Day after a fire ruined their home in Cicero. Today, Avila's 3-year-old daughter finally gets to celebrate Christmas with joy.

"I'm grateful that we're still alive. That the fire didn't catch us sleeping or anything like that. And I'm so happy to see her enjoy Christmas, you know?" Avila said.

All the families in attendance have been touched by violence and tragedy. Andrew Holmes, who lost his own daughter to gun violence, hosted the event to brighten the holiday season that can be so dark and dour for those missing loved ones and facing the unthinkable.

"It was a beautiful thing. It's sad as well, emotional. I miss my son. I wish he could be here," said Jenitra Williams.

Williams lost her son Deon to a shooting in 2019. Hand-decorated plates with images of family members lost to gun violence were presented to survivors, still wracked with grief and pain, in hopes of providing solace.

"It's a club that no one really wants to be in, but unfortunately we're here and we just make the best of it," Williams said.

Her surviving son, 9-year-old Chase, was remembering his brother, comforting his mother, and also showing off some of his dance skills -- giving everyone something to celebrate.

"He's the one who keeps me going. I do everything to stay strong for Chase," Williams said.