Chicago mom hosting holiday toy drive in honor of 9-year-old son fatally shot while playing outside

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Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Mom who lost only child to shooting hosting toy drive in his honor
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A Chicago toy drive is being held in honor of 9-year-old Janari Ricks, who was shot to death on the city's Near North Side in 2020.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago mother is turning the pain of losing a child into a way to help other children.

Jalisa Ford is honoring the 9-year-old son she lost to gun violence two years ago by holding a holiday toy drive in his name.

Ford said when she lost her son, Janari Ricks, the community lost a bright light dedicated to helping others.

"He was a scholar student, very gifted," she said. "Loved everyone."

There are tributes to Ricks on the Near North Side, where a stretch of Division Street is named in his honor and a garden was named after him in an urban farm where he took classes.

But the biggest effort to carry on his legacy is the holiday toy drive his mother organized after his death. It's sponsored by the 1 JAR Foundation, named after the initials of Janari Andre Ricks, and is already in its third year.

"His favorite holiday was Christmas, so with me honoring him, I have started the Christmas toy drive," his mother said. "The first year we did was excellent. We gave away over 10,000 toys. The second year we gave away over 20,000."

In July of 2020, Ricks was playing outside near his home in the 900-block of North Cambridge when a man got out of his car and shot at another man, but hit Ricks several times before taking off. The suspect was arrested days later.

"He was playing and being a kid and was just trying to enjoy the day," his mother said.

The gun violence traumatized Ricks' family and friends. That's why his mother said she wants to follow her only child's example of helping others and has already started collecting toy donations.

"As bad as the tragedy is, it's just a good support system," Ford said. "So having good support is something important to me and it's helping me heal."

The toys will be distributed at Holy Family Lutheran Church on Saturday, December 17. Ford hopes the memory of her son will lead this to be the biggest giveaway so far.

For more information and to donate, visit