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Christmas toy giveaway offers healing and holiday cheer for crime victims’ families

Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry hosted their annual Christmas toy giveaway and dinner for families affected by violence

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As the season of giving unfolds, an initiative by a local organization helped aid the lives of families impacted by crime.

Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry orchestrated their annual Christmas toy giveaway Dec. 12, offering comfort to those grappling with the repercussions of violence.

“We have mothers and fathers and siblings who have lost their child and sibling to gun violence. So, we’re just here to uplift and give the toys out and have a good time,” said founder Donita Royal.

RELATED: Indianapolis kids take a pledge against gun violence  

“We collected about 300 toys, and we have about 80 families we are servicing for the holidays. This is our ninth-year anniversary, and this is the first time we are back in person since the pandemic.”

Royal dressed up festively as Santa while her daughter, Arnitra Torrence, was her elf assistant.

Christmas toy giveaway offers healing and holiday cheer for crime victims’ families
The organizations serviced children and teens ages 3-17 with toys for each age group. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Royal said the recent uptick in youth gun violence has been hard this year.

Torrence said a lot of the families that were in attendance were still grieving from gun violence that has happened in and around the city.

“It’s every day. We just try to be there for the youth and try to be a village for them. We have a new organization coming in 2024 called Surviving Siblings, and it’s for children who have lost a sibling to gun violence,” said Torrence.

Christmas toy giveaway

Along with toys, they offered families a catered dinner and a 360 photo booth.
Deborah Gardner attended the event with her goddaughter and best friend. Her 21-year-old son, Ryan Markey Jr., is currently facing federal charges for a gun incident.

He has been in jail for the last four months.

“What scares me the most, they’re telling me he’s facing at least 18 years, and that’s my baby’s life, you know? I just don’t know what to do. I keep getting doors slammed in my face about how I can legally help him,” said Gardner.

Christmas toy giveaway offers healing and holiday cheer for crime victims’ families
Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry’s annual Christmas toy giveaway serviced about 80 families with over 300 toys for 2023. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

“Pretty much, what I keep getting is that he’s found guilty before he’s even had a trial. I can’t get help from public defenders. They don’t understand that this is my son’s life in their hands. It needs to be taken more seriously than just another trial on your desk.”

Gardner understands the seriousness of gun violence and said her son has had a gun since he was 18 for protection. For three and half years, he never had any trouble with it and was a responsible gun owner.

They made sure he attended safety courses, since he was adamant about having a gun because they lived on 10th and Rural Street – one of the most crime-filled neighborhoods in the city.

Healing & holiday cheer

Gardner said the whole situation feels like a nightmare.

She often feels guilty as a mother because she wonders if he would have found himself hanging around the wrong crowds and in this predicament if she were able to raise him in a different environment and where there were more opportunities.

“I feel like a failure, I failed him. I should have had him in a better start in life. That’s why I’m out here now at this event. I love it. I mean, I miss my baby, but this is great because of the atmosphere and the fun,” said Gardner.

Christmas toy giveaway offers healing and holiday cheer for crime victims’ families
A father and son play together with a balloon outside of the Christmas toy giveaway. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

He is her only child but coming to the Christmas giveaway distracts her from the reality of being affected in this way by crime.

“It’s all about the healing process, and the more you put out love and joy, it’s going to bring some type of healing. At least for that moment and during Christmas time, the holidays, that’s why we’re here,” said Royal.

“It’s important to just show that we do care, and to show that we do love, and that we are here for them,” said Torrence.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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  1. Hello, May GOD Bless , I’m Davaris , and I was writing on behalf of seeing if I can sign up to get my (15yr)daughter and 12,13year old sons something for Christmas. I’m hoping I’m not late or too late I’m jus hearing about the blessings you have going on and needed to be apart of it . Can you call or via SMS me about receiving help for this holiday
    317-395-6810/// varisdiamonds@gmail.com/// thanks and may GOD continue Blessing

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