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Fayetteville Girl Scouts Troop Creates Garden As a Tribute To Teen Gun Violence Victims

The story headlines on victims affected by gun violence are disheartening to read. It’s even more heartbreaking to hear of children who had their lives ahead of them, victimized by gun violence. I wonder what capacity of influence that victim would’ve had in this society, the level of impact, the invention(s) they would’ve created, how they would’ve looked like as adults, and the family legacy they would’ve had.

“Fayetteville Crime on the Rise, Homicide up 9% since 2021.” ABC Channel 11 – November 29, 2022

“6-month-old baby girl, father among 3 shot and killed inside Fayetteville home.” WRAL News – February 8, 2023

“Teen Boy Shot and Killed in Cumberland County,” ABC Channel 11 – May 19, 2023

“Children scrambled as gunfire erupted at the end of a gun violence prevention event,” Raleigh News and Observer – August 4, 2023

The list goes on and on. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics, firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1 to 19 in the United States. The statistics also reveal that 19,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded yearly, and approximately 3 million children are exposed to gun violence.

Cadette Girl Scouts Troop 1804 with Fayetteville City Police Department, Photo Credit: Tracey Morrison, The Exclusive Press

This rising issue closely hit home for Girl Scouts Troop 1804, who lost their former troop mate, Coryonna Young. Young (15), the daughter of Fayetteville City Council, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, was shot and killed by a firearm on October 21, 2022. The girls honor her memory and other teen gun violence victims with a Memorial Garden called Teens with Wings, located at Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.  As a result of this project, Troop 1804 hopes to receive the Silver Award, the highest honor given to Girl Scouts Cadettes.

The girls came up with the idea to create a memorial garden,” stated Troop Leader Angela Wallace. Lewis Chapel Troop Leaders  supported their decision and got approval from the Senior Pastor of Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend Dr.  Stackhouse. 

Tatiana Haywood, an 18-year-old Douglas Byrd High School student killed in a murder-suicide three months ago, was also recognized and honored. Shirley Simeon, the mother of Haywood, shared the devastating effects of her daughter’s unexpected death, who died a week before her graduation.  

“Gun violence has not only impacted my family but your family, our community, and the United States; we have to do something about it. We really have to figure out the root cause of it and make a change,” Banks-McLaughlin shared with the crowd.

Cadette Troop 1804, mothers of slain teen gun violence victims and local leaders at the Memorial Garden. L-R: Spring Lake Mayor, Kia Anthony, Hope Mills Mayor Pro Tem, Dr. Kenjuana Mcray, Andrea Vaughn, Arryana Brooks, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin (Fayetteville Councilwoman/Mother of Coryonna Young, Shirley Simeon (Mother of Tatiana Haywood), Cumberland Co Commissioner, Dr. Toni Stewart, Bianca Crawford, Emily Smallwood, Fayetteville City Councilwoman, Shakeyla Ingram, and Hope Mills Mayor, Jackie Warner. Photo Credit: Tracey Morrison, the Exclusive Press

Simeon, Banks-McLaughlin, and others have raised concerns regarding gun violence’s root cause. The numbers continue to rise. On the same weekend of the ceremony, six shots were fired in Fayetteville, striking a 12-year-old teen killed during a shooting at an Oklahoma football game and three African American adults killed in a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville, Florida.

Troop 1804 collaborated to do a Public Service Announcement video pleading an end to gun violence and provided brochures on this matter. Local leaders such as Dr. Toni Stewart (Cumberland County Commissioner), Kia Anthony (Spring Lake Mayor), Jackie Warner (Hope Mills Mayor), and Kemberle Braden (Fayetteville Chief of Police) expressed their support for the PSA video, inviting the Girl Scouts Troop to participate in youth related initiatives on the rising issues of gun violence.

Other initiatives and policies have been proposed, including safe firearm storage, extreme risk protection orders, cracking down on gun trafficking, and universal background checks through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act proposed by President Joe Biden. According to CBS 17 News, Fayetteville Mayor Colvin called a special city council meeting to address the rise in youth gun violence after a 17-year-old was shot in her leg while attending a birthday party at a nightclub. 

Communities, leaders, and organizations must continue coming together to press this issue and work towards promoting public safety and creating safer environments for everyone, especially our children.

Click on the link to watch the PSA video and support Girl Scouts Troop 1804 initiative to stop Teen Gun Violence.

Additional Information on Resources and Advocacy Groups to Stop Violence: Heal the Ville, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, and Sandy Hook Promise.

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