Shakir Street was just a toddler when he was shot in the head. But on Friday, the 3-year-old happily chased a football, danced with his friends and opened presents at a gymnasium in Englewood.
Shakir and his family, along with a dozen other families, were invited to eat and celebrate with the Andrew Holmes Foundation and the Schofield Family Foundation as they handed out gifts at the Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Center of the Salvation Army, 945 W. 69th St.
Shakir’s grandmother, Timeana Anderson, called the surprise event “heartwarming”.
“I thought it was a positive outing, that I could get the kids into a safe environment,” Anderson, 47, said.
On Friday, every family was touched by gun violence in some way. Holmes, a community activist, first met many of them at Comer Hospital after their child was shot dead. Friday’s event was meant to inspire happier memories.
“We want them to smile, we want them to dance because in that moment, going through all that pain is hard,” he said.
Holmes held back tears as he spoke, thinking how ‘their lives seemed to have to be cut short’ – and also thinking of those of whom there were others whose lives had been lost due to gun violence.
The gifts distributed on Friday included soccer balls, board games and stuffed animals. The children also received winter coats, hats and gloves. Many gifts were handpicked by Ahlise Coyne of the Schofield Family Foundation.
“I feel blessed that Andrew reached out,” Coyne said. “They are happy and that’s how it should be. They should dance, eat and have toys. Children should not feel like they are unsafe.
Former Chicago Fire forward Patrick Nyarkow was handing out autographed photos. When 9-year-old Mikyla James received one, her face broke into a huge smile. Her mother, Taqurie Plummer, wiped tears from her eyes.
“It means a lot. We really appreciate it,” said Plummer, 31. “We have no income because of the situation,” she said, referring to how Mikyla was affected to the head by a stray bullet over the summer and now uses a wheelchair.
As Mikyla and her mother were loaded down with presents, her smile never faded.
Four lucky raffle winners also won a Bluetooth speaker; four others each won a television. One such winner was 2-year-old Ella Harris.
Ella was shot in the arm in October, said her father, Everett Harris, but she is doing well. The bullet passed through his arm, leaving his nerves intact – and with no broken or fractured bones. Now she even does gymnastics.
“It’s been great to see what they’ve done for the community and the kids who have been hurt by gun violence,” Harris, 27, said. “It shows the city cares and it means a lot during the holidays.”
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times viaReport for America,a non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of South Side and West Side communities.