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A Fathers’ Day event for grieving families

As Father’s Day approaches, families are making plans to get together. But tonight in Renton, there’s an event for people who may find Fathers’ Day to be a difficult time.

The group Resilient in Sustaining Empowerment or “RISE” is holding its second annual Fathers’ Day event for children who have lost their fathers to gun violence, as well as fathers who have lost children.

The group’s founder Lynniah Grayson said the purpose is to give people harmed by violence a sense of belonging.

“They feel like they don’t belong when they’re around their siblings, who maybe have a father, or classmates, or cousins, or families. So to have them together so they know that they’re not alone,” Grayson said. “The same thing with the fathers who have lost children.”

Grayson said she was already noticing the impact of these shootings on other families, especially on mothers of young children who felt overwhelmed, when the father of her 5-year-old daughter was shot and killed last year.

“I got a call saying that my daughter’s father was murdered in a bar, and shot alongside three other people,” she said.

Grayson said that while King County has established supports for at-risk youth, there’s much less available for the partners and young children left behind.

“The thought of having nowhere to turn to? That’s a problem,” she said.

At tonight’s event in Renton those family members will make commemorative t-shirts, and release doves and balloons in memory of their loved ones. About 100 people have registered to attend.

They’ll also hear from Seattle’s gun violence liaison DeVitta Briscoe, Community Passageways founder Dominique Davis, and Donnitta Sinclair, whose son was fatally shot during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest in 2020.

Beyond these events, Grayson has also created an eight-week program for impacted mothers and their children. The children receive free childcare, thanks to volunteer organizations. During that time, the parents hear from grief counselors, therapists and domestic violence specialists, and participate in yoga and other activities as a cohort. She said the program works to de-stigmatize therapy.

“It has been so helpful to work with young Black therapists who are thriving, who are trauma-informed, who understand the disease of gun violence and that gun violence is a public health crisis,” Grayson said.