RICHMOND, Va. -- City Hall in Richmond will be lit up with the color orange starting mid-week into the weekend in support of national gun violence awareness week. Homicide is now the leading cause of death for young people in Richmond, officials said.
The color orange is part of a national gun violence prevention effort that began with a Chicago teen. Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed on a playground several years ago.
"Much like the tragic loss of Markiya Dickson right here in Richmond. Hadiya’s friends commemorated her life by wearing orange, the color worn by hunters to protect themselves and others," Kristin DuMont, a former Richmond teacher and member of the Mom's Demand Action group, said.
Kim DiJoseph said the ripple effect of gun violence persists for years for families of the victim. Her mother was murdered ten years ago.
"It starts with a single gunshot. It takes one life, and it devastates so many along the way," said DiJoseph. "Gun violence made real for my kids, now 12 and eight, that horrible things can happen to people who love you and who you love.”
Spreading that message is part of the city's summertime effort to curb violent crime, specifically focusing on young people.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said parents play a major role in community safety.
"We do everything we can to fill in the gaps," Stoney said of the summer programs. "All I’ve ever asked is that our parents have a baseline curiosity about what’s going on in their kids' lives. Where are kids at certain times of the day? Certain times of the evening? And, who are their friends? What’s going on in their lives?”
"Every child in this community is the responsibility of every adult," Robert Bolling, CEO of Childsavers, a non-profit addressing the mental health of children, said.
Bolling said an increase in therapy referrals shows the mental toll of gun violence on many kids in the community.
"When we hear a dog barking as we walk down the street, we go on high alert, and all the sensors in our brain are looking around and saying, ‘where’s the dog?’" Bolling said. "For the children who experience this trauma and gun violence, those sensors never stop.”
City Hall will remain lit up orange through the weekend. National Gun Violence Awareness Day is June 2.
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