In this June photo, Ramona Reeves of Uniontown walks down Evans Street while holding an image of her son, Semori K. Wilson, who was killed in 2018. Reeves founded the SKW Foundation, which co-sponsors the Wear Orange Day (Herald-Standard photo).
By Mark Hofmann
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — The loss of family members to gun violence led a local woman to start a nonprofit she hopes will offer hope and help to others.
Ramona Reeves’ son, Semori K. Wilson, was 25 when he was shot and killed in 2018 in New York. Two years later, the mother Wilson’s children, 27-year-old Briawna Long, was fatally shot outside of a Uniontown gas station.
And last year, Reeves’ 19-year-old nephew Damani Wilson was gunned down outside a Luzerne Township home.
Reeves, who founded SKW Foundation in 2020, hopes to use the nonprofit as a way to reach out and heal those whose loved ones have died by gun violence, especially the children who have been so profoundly impacted.
The foundation has organized local participation in the annual Wear Orange Day, which is a part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day and observed on the first Friday of June. Participants wear orange because it is the same color hunters wear to alert others not to shoot at them.
During this year’s event, attendees participated in a peace walk through Uniontown, and planted flowers at the entrance of Grant Park to memorialize those who have died because of gun violence.
This year, they planted 111 orange marigolds, each representing one of the lives taken daily in the U.S. by guns.
“Congress has to do more, we need laws changed, and we have the police department doing all they can do, but they also need help,” Reeves said at this year’s event. “We need people to speak up and let people know what they have seen to get it under control and make arrest and put the people who are doing this behind bars.”
SKW Foundation also takes part in the National Night Out, and recently held its first blood drive in May. The foundation has also joined forces with the Crime Victims Center of Fayette County to hold a grief-support group, and have held purse-bingo events as well as gift-basket raffles as fundraisers.
As the foundation continues to bring awareness of gun violence throughout the community, Reeves said she would like to apply for grants to start programs for young people to keep them off of the streets.
Starting her foundation in the year of COVID-19-related shutdowns and regulations presented a challenge to Reeves.
“It was hard at first, not being able to fundraise and do activities because of the social distancing,” Reeves said, adding they couldn’t have any indoor functions at first and even last year’s purse bingo was virtual. “It’s not as bad now.”
This year, the foundation held two in-person fundraisers and Reeves is asking for donations of supplies for children that have lost a parent or parents to gun violence.
Needed items include coats for the wintertime, school supplies, items for Christmastime and for any other needs. Any monetary donations, she said, will go toward meeting the needs of those children.
“Kids always need something because they’re always growing,” Reeves said.
Although Reeves said she has plenty of volunteers with the foundation’s events and fundraisers, anyone who wants to help will be welcomed.
Mark Hofmann is a reporter for the Herald-Standard of Uniontown, Pa. Helping the Helpers is a joint effort of the Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Readers may email him at [email protected].
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