Group brings holiday spirit, gifts to families of Chicago gun violence victims

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The holiday spirit filled a Hyde Park church as the group Chicago Survivors brought the holiday spirit, gifts, and kindness to children who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

The people in the room share a bond no one seeks; all have painful memories of bullet casings and yellow tape.

"When I arrived to the hospital my son was already deceased," said Cynthia Smith, mother of LeRon McCoy.

"My daughter is Heaven Sutton. She was shot and killed June 27 selling candy outside our house. She was 7 years old," said Ashake Banks.

Ayanah and LeRon are spending their first Christmas without their father. They're not here to forget their loss, but for little things that bring some light back into their lives: pizza, cupcakes and glitter arts and crafts. These families came to find out it's okay to celebrate again.

"It hurts me to see the kids out interacting around the holidays, but I got a job to do, to stay close to these mothers," Banks said.

"Children love the spirit of Christmas and the holidays, and at the same time parents struggle with how to celebrate and grieve and not show that emotion in front of their children," said Jashawn Hill, family support specialist with Chicago Survivors.

At the end of it all there's a little token, a personal Christmas present to take home.

Not all 400 presents at the event were given out. The rest will be personally delivered to families affected by gun violence by members of Chicago Survivors. The group is trying to create a more pleasant ending to one of the city's deadliest years in decades.
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