Santa visits children of 2 slain anti-violence workers, and 13 dads get lift from Chicago Bears player

The children of the slain women were overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, while across town an anonymous Bears player left his own mark.

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Gregory Martin reacts to Santa and presents during a Christmas Eve event to surprise the children of two mothers shot to death while working as peacemakers in Chicago.

Gregory Martin reacts to Santa and presents during a Christmas Eve event to surprise the children of two mothers shot to death while working as peacemakers in Chicago.

Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Santa arrived in West Englewood on Tuesday aboard a caravan of flatbedtow trucks laden with presents.

His mission, along with about a dozen carolers and a number of elves: Bring cheer to the children of Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire.

The women, both members ofMothers Against Senseless Killings, were killed in a drive-by shooting in July while attempting to occupy and reclaim a particularly violent Gresham neighborhood street corner. Their presence, they hoped, would help quell the violence.

“It’s been really challenging, especially for them, because they’re little,” Stoudemire’s daughter Brinity Johnson, 19, said of her younger brothers Micheal, 15, and Pierre, 11.

“She’d be so happy because this is something that she’d do for them,” said Brinity, who’s been taking care of her siblings.

Grant’s four kids — Giovanni, 1; Gregory, 2; Sharnelle, 4; and Aniyah, 10 — miss their mom but are resilient, said Grant’s sister Breana Bolling.

The children from each family — who gathered Tuesday at the Englewood neighborhood home of a relative of Grant’s — seemed overwhelmed but thankful for the attention.

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Anti-violence crusaders Chantell Grant, 26, (right) and 35-year-old Andrea Stoudemire (left) were fatally shot in July.

Provided

As they shyly checked out their gifts, dibs was quickly called on a do-it-yourself slime kit.

The event was organized and mostly funded by Early Walker, CEO of W&W Towing, who for the past four years has chosen to help a family in need during the Christmas holiday.

“In spite of their mom’s deaths, there is hope. They’re both heroes in my eyes,” Walker said.

“There’s a horrible stigma of violence inour communities now, and, unfortunately,our youth have become accustomed to that. And so I do this to show our youth that there is hope, there is light, and the world is not just about violence,” he said.

Groceries, clothes and gift cards were among the items provided for the families.

The deaths of Grant, 26, and Stoudemire, 35, incensed Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who called the shooting “horrifying” and said the tragedy was made worse by the fact that the two young moms were doing precisely what the mayor has asked all law-abiding Chicagoans to do: Get involved.

About four miles east of where tow truck Santa was doing his thing, 13 dads were surprised with $1,000 gifts provided by a Chicago Bears football player.

The dads, ages 17 to 24, participate in the Dovetail Project, which provides young African American fathers with skills and support they need to be better fathers.

The group was invited to spend a day last month with the Bears at their practice facility and bonded with several players.

“It was a defensive player who made the donation, one of the top players on the Bears team, but I can’t say who,” said Sheldon Smith, who heads the nonprofit organization.

“These fathers came to pick up some toys for their kids that we’d collected from a toy drive, and we surprised them with the $1,000 gift,” Smith said.

“It was huge, they were overjoyed. Most of these young men don’t have employment, so they now have an opportunity to go out and get some things for their families and themselves,” he said.

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