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Community Groups Help Make The Holidays Brighter For Children Affected By Homicide

Cody Newill
KCUR 89.3
Children line up to take their picture with Santa Claus. Longtime volunteer Calvin Neal dressed up as Old Saint Nick this year. He says the event was bittersweet, but it was important for him to take part in it.

Dozens of families who've suffered loss due to homicide came to the Lucile Bluford branch of the Kansas City Public Library for gifts, food and support Saturday. 

The AdHoc Group Against Crime and Laura E. Mason Foundation organized the Toys for Tots event to help children suffering after the death of loved ones. Organizer Nae-na Oliver has personal experience dealing with homicide and the influence it can have on kids.

"We pay a lot of attention to the mothers and fathers and grandparents, and we forget about children who have lost their parents and grandparents," Oliver said. "My childrens' father was murdered in 1996, and I know the trials and tribulations that children go through in learning about death at an early age."

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Members of the Laura E. Mason Foundation helped give families a good meal along with presents for young ones.

In 2015, Kansas City's homicide rate increased from arecord low in 2014. As of Dec. 17, police had recorded 103 homicides.

Safiyyah Mills of the Laura E. Mason Foundation said though the event is bittersweet, she believes giving children a positive experience is rewarding.

"I'm hoping it makes the holidays just a little bit easier," Mills said. "There's nothing that can replace the loss of a parent, but we're hoping to just spread some holiday cheer and let them know that their community loves them."

Jamie Hill attended the event with her daughter. She says her children have been struggling since their father was killed in January, especially during holidays.

"I hope she knows that people love her, unconditionally, even though her dad may be gone," Hill said. "Events like this bring back memories, and you try to remember the good ones, not the bad ones."

The AdHoc Group expected to give presents and a Christmas dinner to nearly 250 children this year. A prayer vigil was scheduled for Leawood Baptist Church Saturday evening. 

Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at cody@kcur.org. 

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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