BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A sea of orange was present at the Western Avenue Community Center for the Wear Orange Event on Saturday.
The Wear Orange Weekend began June 2015 in memory of Hadiya Pendleton who was shot at a Chicago Playground in 2013. McLean County’s Moms Demand Action began hosting a Wear Orange Event in 2018.
“Our purpose of it is to remember the victims of gun violence. We want to amplify voices of survivors so they can get their story out,” said Donna Walley of Moms Demand Action.
One of the speakers was Talaina Matthews who lost her son Kiejoun Watts to gun violence in February.
“None of us chose the title to be gun violence survivors. But we’re all here together to support each other and it’s more like a remembrance,” said Watts.
Matthews was also able to meet Tomeka Love. Love’s son Kanye Stowers was killed at a house party in 2022 just a month before his high school graduation. She said it feels good to connect with others who can understand her grief.
“They can understand. They can grieve how I grieve. They can really feel what mothers feel. They feel lost. They feel empty. That’s how I feel,” said Love.
Local organizations such as Project Oz, Be Smart and the Young Women’s Christian Association were present to show support and provide resources for the community. Bloomington Police Chief Jamal Simington said it’s important to have empathy.
“We’re invested in that. We care. We have concern. We also feel their pain. And being a survivor of violence myself, I certainly understand that,” he said.
The Bloomington Police Department will hand out vouchers for free gun safes on June 10 at the farmer’s market.