LINCOLN PARK — For Ricky Pike’s 26th birthday, friends and family gathered at his favorite place to party — North Avenue Beach.
The sun was shining. There was a red velvet birthday cake and a bunch of balloons. The only thing missing from the weekend party was Ricky himself — he was murdered two years ago in Logan Square.
But instead of reciting somber prayers or grieving, a group of about 30 of Pike's relatives and their friends took another tact: They celebrated, a conscious effort by Pike's mother and a group of other parents who have lost children to violence to strive to live richly in mourning.
The parents have come together in an attempt to fight off the nagging desire to shut out the world and let their grief consume them.
"These families, these mothers, they are not going to let the monsters who killed their children take their lives, too," said Dawn Valenti, an advocate with the group Chicago Citizens for Change. "They decided to stand up and make sure [their children] are remembered."
Ricky Pike, 24, was killed in August 2012 when a man pulled up alongside the car he was in and opened fire for no apparent reason, according to authorities.
But at the party Friday, Maria Pike emphasized her son's lust for life.
“This is a celebration of Ricky’s life,” said Pike, against a backdrop of sand volleyball matches and the sounds of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” floating down from the patio of Castaways Bar and Grill. “His father and I, Ricky’s friends, we want to remember him in a good way, not that he was murdered.”
“To me and to all these parents, our kids are the stars [in the sky]. They are the light,” she said.
She later said she could feel his presence.
“I believe Ricky was at the beach; I am a hundred percent sure,” said Pike, who spread her child’s ashes in the sand at the beach last year.
Other moms who celebrated with Pike included: Diana Aguilar, whose 6-year-old daughter was fatally shot while sitting in her lap on a porch in Little Village; Myrna Roman, mother of Manny Roman, a Logan Square man killed by a paraplegic gangbanger in a drive-by shooting; and Joy McCormack, mother of a DePaul University student murdered at a Halloween party in Humboldt Park.
The group laughed and cried to stories about Ricky and wrote him personal messages on a few dozen balloons.
On Pike’s count of three, they let go of the strings and watched as the balloons faded away in the fog overhead.
“We love you, Ricky,” Pike said.
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