CHICAGO —The Hadiya Pendleton Foundation is sponsoring its first Christmas toy drive since its creation earlier this year, and organizers said its goal is to provide toys for 200 kids in need.
"Christmas should be a time of joy for kids but so many children are sad on Christmas because their parents were unable to buy them anything," said Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, who started the foundation with her husband, Nathaniel Pendleton, in memory of their slain teenage daughter Hadiya. "At least if we're able to give a kid one toy, that helps make Christmas a little better."
Toys collected will be distributed at a free Christmas party for youths and their parents from noon-4 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. King Drive.
And toys can be sent to the foundation at 47 W. Polk St., P.O. Box 100547, Chicago, IL 60605.
"People can also call the foundation at 855-4-HADIYA to find the nearest drop-off location," she added. "And toys donated should be unused and not wrapped."
Before the Christmas party, the Pendletons will attend an annual gala on Oct. 27 for the Keep Loving Each Other (K.L.E.O) Community Family Life Center, where the nonprofit organization will honor them with their Kleo Barrett Angel Award. This award acknowledges individuals fighting to stop domestic violence and those working to help Chicago's at-risk youths.
The gala is from 5-9 p.m. at the Alhambra Palace restaurant, 1240 W. Randolph St. And while honored to receive the award, Nathaniel Pendleton said under the circumstances he wished they were not getting it.
"This award is a result of us losing our daughter to gun violence. You see, our daughter was murdered by an at-risk youth," he said. "Is it an honor to receive this award? Absolutely. But would I prefer to still have our daughter here? Yes I would."
Nathaniel Pendleton added that since their daughter's murder on Jan. 29 both he and his wife have worked hard to create more awareness about gun violence "to prevent other families from going through what we have gone through."
Cowley-Pendleton said tougher penalties for "shooters" could deter others from harming innocent people.
"If [criminals] knew the consequences of shooting someone they might think twice before doing it," she said.
As for the Kleo award, "it is a tremendous honor to receive the award and it compliments my entire family," she said.
Diane Redleaf, executive director of the Family Defense Center, a Chicago-based nonprofit that works with families wrongly accused of child abuse and neglect, will also receive the Kleo award along with the Pendletons.
“I have made defending families who have been unfairly separated by the child welfare system my life’s work, because there is nothing more important to a child’s development than family,” Redleaf said. "So, I’m humbled that K.L.E.O., an organization that supports abused women, would honor me and I’m delighted to accept this award.”
Paying tribute to community leaders is one of the many things the Keep Loving Each Other center does best, executive director Torrey Barrett said.
“The Kleo Barrett Angel Award is about more than then just honoring these people striving to make a difference in their neighborhoods,” Barrett said. “It’s about showing the fractured and disenfranchised among us that there are people who care [about them] and that all they have to do is reach out for a helping hand.”