Shakir Street was just a toddler when he was shot in the head. But on Friday, the 3-year-old happily chased a soccer ball, danced with his friends and opened gifts inside an Englewood gymnasium.
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 Salvation Army’s Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Center, 945 W. 69th St.
Shakir’s grandmother, Timeana Anderson, called the surprise event “comforting.”
“I thought it was a positive outing, that I could bring the children to a safe environment,” said Anderson, 47.
Every family there Friday has been affected by gun violence in some way. Holmes, a community activist, first met many of them at Comer Hospital after their child was shot. Friday’s event was meant to inspire happier memories.
“We want them to smile, we want them to dance because at that moment, going through all that pain, that’s hard,” he said.
Holmes held back tears as he spoke, thinking how “their lives looked like they were going to be cut short” — and also thinking about those there were others whose lives had been lost to gun violence.
Gifts handed out Friday included soccer balls, board games and stuffed animals. Children also received winter coats, hats and gloves. Many gifts were hand-picked by Ahlise Coyne of the Schofield Family Foundation.
“I feel blessed that Andrew reached out,” said Coyne. “They’re happy and that’s the way it should be. They should be dancing and eating and having toys. Kids shouldn’t feel like they’re not safe.”
Former Chicago Fire forward, Patrick Nyarko was handing out signed photos. When 9-year-old Mikyla James received one, her face broke into a huge smile. Her mom, 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 hit in the head by a stray bullet over the summer and now uses a wheelchair.
As Mikyla and her mother were loaded up with gifts, her smile never faded.
Four lucky raffle winners also won a Bluetooth speaker; four others each won a TV. One of those winners was 2-year-old Ella Harris.
Ella was shot in the arm in October, said her dad, Everett Harris, but is doing well. The bullet went straight through her arm, leaving her nerves undamaged — and with no bones broken or fractured. Now, she’s even in gymnastics.
“It’s awesome to see what they did for the community and the kids that were wounded by gun violence,” said Harris, 27. “It shows that the city cares and it means a lot around the holiday.”
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a Chicago Sun-Times staff reporter via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and the West Side.