“The doorbell rang at 4:30 in the morning. Nothing good happens when the doorbell rings at 4:30 in the morning. The detective showed me a picture of my son and said he had been involved in a homicide. Everything went black.”
Yolanda moved from the city of Chicago to a suburb outside the city so her family would be safe. She wanted to raise them in a better environment. Her 14-year-old son, Damani, rode the three miles from home into the city to visit one of his friends. He was riding his bike home from the friend’s house when he was shot and killed. Yolanda said, “They shot him in the head, neck and back, and he died instantly. The police claim it was mistaken identity.” Damani was still a boy who liked to ride his bike, and he loved art. He wanted to be a cartoonist when he grew up. He wasn’t involved with gang activity or crime. He was just a boy. “Imagine, going to the morgue to identify your son and then try to go on with life afterwards. There are days where I’m so depressed I can barely get out of bed. You expect to leave this earth before your kids, not the other way around.” Just three hours before Damani had been shot, a 19-year-old girl was also shot and killed in the same area. Pointless tragedies leaving behind questions and unimaginable grief.
Damani was the victim of the senseless gun violence in Chicago. Yolanda had no way to pay for her son’s burial expenses. She said, “I am so thankful for the generous grant that the Hug Fund donors gave to my family. Without the grant, I would not have been able to bury my son. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the kindhearted people who donate to the Hug Fund. I laid my son to rest July 13, 2013, and I personally want to thank everyone for their kindness and generosity. I am forever indebted to you in my heart.”
Damani would have been 15 in May. Yolanda is going to take a few days off from work to celebrate Damani’s life, quietly with her family. This tragedy is real and graphic and incredibly painful and something we all think could never happen to us. When asked what this year’s theme, “Take A Walk in Their Shoes,” meant to her, Yolanda responded, “I don’t want anyone to ever have to take a walk in my shoes…not even for a moment. It’s too painful, and I don’t wish it upon anyone. But I know my story will hit home with someone enough to make them sacrifice and support the Hug Fund.”