As I’ve shared in the past… in 2014, my community’s sense of safety and security was rocked… as so many communities have been of late. On Sunday, April 13th, a hate-filled, white supremacist, pulled into the parking lot of the Jewish Community Campus and murdered Dr. William Corporon and his 14-year old grandson, Reat Underwood, as the young man was preparing to audition for a high school singing competition being sponsored by the Jewish Community Center. From there, he drove south about a mile to the senior living center, Village Shalom, where he shot and killed Teresa LaManno who had been visiting her mother. Hatred had a devastating impact on my town that afternoon… but the perpetrator of this crime did not win… instead of instilling fear, as he had hoped, the broad community banded together, propped up one another and unified to show its mettle and support for our diverse city.
Of the incident, my now-17-year-old son, Ian, who was 10 at the time, said the following:
It was April 13, 2014. The air was unusually stale that Sunday, low hanging clouds darkening the sky, making the humid midday hour seem later than it was. Mama was in the kitchen preparing for the upcoming Passover seder. I heard a gasp and, fearing she had knocked over the matzo ball soup, ran to check. Soup safe, I noticed her ashen face and asked, “What happened?” No response. The next voice I heard was from a local news anchor: There had been a shooting at our Jewish Community Center. The perpetrator: A white supremacist; the victims: The son and father of a family friend – plus another victim at Village Shalom. In answer to such a hateful act, in 2015, SevenDays®: Make a Ripple Change the World was born – designed solely to spread kindness and interfaith understanding.
Not willing to let bigotry silence me with fear, I was drawn to SevenDays. Early on, I had the chance to work on teen programming such as an interfaith workshop designed to teach my peers and me about other faith traditions which drew approximately 100 youth. Later, the Youth Kindness Leadership Team (KYLT) was formally established. Naturally, I applied to be a member.
It feels great knowing that I am playing a role in bringing together our community. My involvement in SevenDays and, specifically, my role as a KYLT Ambassador, has educated me about the perspectives and experiences of others, and helped me establish friendships with people different from myself. It’s been a privilege to have access to and be able to share SevenDays tools, resources and experiences with friends, family, classmates and others. I’ve come to understand the importance of promoting social justice and believe that change is possible when people come together.Ian Hammer, senior, Blue Valley West High School
While we have seen this story play itself out again and again across our nation, what the perpetrators of these crimes never anticipate is the ever-increasing strength of the communities they leave in their wake. One way that I have personally sought to work through all of this hatred and stay true to my mission statement of Connecting, Inspiring and Empowering Community is to immerse myself headlong into SevenDays and its parent organization, the Faith Always Wins Foundation. SevenDays engages all people to discover commonalities and overcome evil with acts of kindness.
You can get involved, too! All SevenDays 2021 events, which kick off today, are virtual this year due to the global pandemic.
Today, Tuesday, April 13, 2021 – the seven-year anniversary of the shootings – is LOVE Day. You are invited to participate through a virtual watch party on YouTube which will feature a celebration of youth. We’ll also be recognizing the winner of a new annual award – the Ripple of Kindness Award. It will be presented to Trent Green, former Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback and current CBS NFL Analyst, for going above and beyond in demonstrating kindness through his actions and words.
The official SevenDays 2021 activities will culminate with a virtual Kindness Walk on ONWARD Day, Sunday, April 25th. You can walk with us from wherever you are in the world! (In fact, I will be walking from Miami Beach, Florida!)
There are many other ways to participate – in the organized events, or by creating ripples of kindness on your own in your community. To learn more and register for our events, most of which are free and open to the public, visit GiveSevenDays.org. #BeTheRipple
Happy SevenDays 2021! Happy Networking!
P.S. – Today’s post is dedicated to the loving memory of Reat Underwood, Dr. William Corporon, and Terri Lamanno. It also comes with a big shout out to my friends, Mindy Corporon, Jill Andersen, and the entire SevenDays 2021 Planning Committee. Thank you for bringing together our global community and creating ripples of kindness around the world.