Park Hill neighborhood tree planting mission honoring victims of juvenile gun violence – CBS Denver

DENVER (CBS4) – A mother whose son died of gun violence hopes a new project in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver can help spark healing and open people’s eyes to a growing problem.

Gun violence directly affects an estimated 700 young people in the city each year, according to a report by Denver Public Health. Guns are also one of the leading causes of death among teenagers in Denver. A total of 74 people were killed between 2012 and 2019, according to the report.

Tuwanna O’Neal’s son La’Zic Abraham was shot dead near Barney L. Ford Park in Montbello on January 26, 2020. Months later, O’Neal said she still doesn’t know who killed the 16-year-old or why.

La’Zic Abraham (Image credit: Tuwanna O’Neal)

“It’s really hard to wake up and not have a child you’ve had all your life,” said O’Neal.

Abraham has been described as a devoted teenager and avid reader who dreams of becoming an architectural engineer. O’Neal said prior to La’Zic’s death that he had spent time with the wrong crowd.

“The same kids he called his brothers actually left him in the park to die,” said O’Neal.

Tuwanna O’Neal (Image credit: CBS)

This Saturday a group of local organizations will come together to honor Abraham and many other sacrifices for the Mending Roots Forest project. The project will honor youth who lost their lives to gun violence by planting up to 200 trees to create a living memorial called Mending Roots Forest in Northeast Park Hill.

“I know a lot of these kids dying out here and I run out of emotions,” said Jason McBride, who works with the McBride Impact and the Struggle of Love Foundation. “It’s difficult to deal with because these are often just babies. We had 13, 14, and 15 year old children. “

Jason McBride (Image credit: CBS)

Groups involved in the project include the McBride Impact, the Struggle of Love Foundation, the Gang Rescue and Support Project (GRASP), the Denver Gang Reduction Initiative (GRID), and the Holleran Group. Westside Investment Partners, Inc., which now owns the property, was also involved in the planning.

The organizers planted the first tree on the site last year. On Sunday, they plant many more birch, poplar, and elm trees, as well as others, to pay tribute to the tree-related street names in the Park Hill neighborhood.

“They will reflect this neighborhood and they will reflect the young people who died here,” he said.

(Credit: CBS)

In the long term, McBride hopes the forest will be a visual reminder of the city’s growing problem and a place where families and community members can heal.

“This is something these families can accomplish in years to come, identify the tree with their youngster and sit under it, care for it, just be a part of it,” said McBride.

For O’Neal, the place is even more personal. A few summers ago, La’Zic went to Park Hill Golf Course for some fresh air and read books. Now his place of consolation becomes their place of healing.

“We can see life because the park he died in is difficult for me to go to,” said O’Neal.

“Being part of this tree project will be a healing process for all of us.”

Families and community groups will meet at 9:00 am on Saturday at Park Hill Golf Course, and they still need a lot of volunteers to plant the trees. Anyone interested can just show up.

To learn more about the project, visit mendingrootsforest.com.

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