Peoria, Ill. (HOI) – You may have seen a group of people outside the Riverplex planting new flowers Sunday. But that garden has an even deeper meaning for families who have lost loved ones.
The gathering was filled with flowers, fellowship and plenty of hugs between survivors all brought together through different family tragedies.
Vigils are often hosted at Peoria’s Gateway Building mourning deaths from violence in the River City. Residents and leaders alike reminded of senseless bloodshed.
“Before there was PCAV, I was putting together prayer vigils for victims and those who were victimized about 50 times myself,” said Pastor Harvey Barnett.
Pastor Barnett joined Yolanda Wallace to host the annual Plant to Remember fundraiser. Wallace’s son Jon Buckley was shot and killed in 2006. Jon was 20 years old and in the Navy delay program ready to serve his country before he was murdered.
Wallace says her family had to regroup and try to find a new way to survive. This garden was a step in the right direction.
“We, the survivors, have put it together,” said Wallace. “It is not the police. It is not the churches, it is us surviving.”
But Wallace says more has to be done to actually stop the number of tragedies from growing.
“There’s no Parents of Murdered Children group, no Mothers Against Drunk Driving. There’s none of those programs here, so I created resources to allow us to have an outlet for us to come together as survivors in the Peoria area,” said Wallace.
She adds it can take parents and families seven to 10 years to fully grasp life without that emotional support. With two homicides just last week, the community is dealing with some fresh wounds.
“Sometimes it makes it hard when you hear about all of these shootings and texting while driving and you know suicide and all of these things that are happening through tragic deaths, but we can’t let that stop us. I’m determined to advocate for families of tragic deaths until the day I die,” Wallace said.
And if you walk on this path near the Riverplex, remember to take a moment to think of those honored inside the heart.
“There still is love here. We still can survive here as well.”