RICHMOND, Va. — 2021 proved to be a particularly violent year across Central Virginia. The number of homicides increased from the year before in nearly every jurisdiction, and Richmond broke a 17-year-record.
The trauma and loss have left communities suffering, but with each instance of tragedy, light always shines through.
One activist has stepped up to support hurting families time and time again. Over the past year, Shanda Gaston has organized vigils, rallies, marches, parades and even a halftime show to support victims and give youth a platform to take a stand against violence.
Gaston also gets children plugged into enrichment programs and activities to provide them with positive outlets.
"I have a dancing team, 'Diamonds of Essence'," she said. "I take kids from 6 to 18 years of age, just to give them hope, and to have them participate in something, keep them out of trouble, give them something to do."
Gaston said she's also in the process of launching a "Big Brother, Big Sister" program with the semi-pro football team, The Virginia Stars.
"I just want to save the kids," she said.
Because of Gaston's dedication to helping her community, CBS 6 surprised her with two gift cards with the help of Virginia Credit Union.
"Y'all have no idea this made my day," she said. "I'm so exhausted just from the weekend, but if it's going to take me being exhausted to make the world a better place, then so be it."
Find unique, award-winning stories every day on CBS 6 News: