Families run, walk in honor of loved ones lost to violence
Posted April 20, 2013 1:17 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2013 7:42 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — With the violent events in Boston as a fitting but painful backdrop, a group gathered in downtown Raleigh Saturday morning to remember North Carolina residents who have been lost to senseless violence.
In its third year, the NC Victim Assistance Network's Stride For Survivors 5K offers families who have lost loved ones a chance to cope by turning to each other.
"Every time you hear something horrific like we've heard on the news this last week, it brings it all back," Maryann Johnson said. "Why is there so much violence? I guess we'll never know."
Johnson attended Saturday's walk to remember Joshua Proutey, a 19-year-old Clayton native who was shot and killed in December 2012 after being robbed of a sandwich, a cellphone and $10 in downtown Wilmington.
"He was the kind of person...he wasn't happy until everybody was happy," Johnson said. "He was a very dear friend to my son and our family. He was our constant source of entertainment whenever he was at our house."
Proutey's brother Carlos won Saturday's race.
"I feel really happy because I wanted to do it for him," Carlos Proutey said. "It's really hard. Every time I wake up, I always think of him."
Eva Hodge was thinking of her son Derek, a Southeast Raleigh High School graduate who was killed nearly five years ago at an apartment complex near North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.
"We just have to remember Derek and his legacy by the way he lived," Eva Hodge said. "Doing this today does so."
Kevin Blaine spoke Saturday of his daughter Jenna Nielsen, a pregnant mother of two who was murdered in June of 2007 at a Raleigh gas station.
"I just remember a vibrant young lady that was just full of life," Blaine said. "She's the mother of my three grandsons and she took care of them."
Raleigh police have never made an arrest in Nielsen's murder, calling it a random homicide. In the years since her slaying, family members have set up a website, Justice4Jenna, in an effort to keep the case in the public eye.
"We're still searching for her killer," Blaine said. "We need the public's help. It's always there. But some days are easier. Most days are pretty much the same."
Blaine agreed with Johnson, saying that the events in Boston that gripped the nation for much of the week were a stark reminder of how quickly violence can impact lives.
"It really makes you think and pray for all the families that are going through the same thing," Blaine said.
Saturday's walk also kicked off National Crime Victims' Rights Week, an annual week used to remember those lost to violence.