KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Donations across multiple Kansas City organizations ensured backpacks and school supplies were handed out to families at 3800 E. Linwood Saturday.
The supplies came with a gentle reminder to work hard and stay away from violence via Monica Henderson, who lost her son to gun violence.
“It’s like somebody had ripped my heart out,” Henderson said. "I didn’t know how to wake up in the morning or how to go through the day or how to continue to be a parent to my girls.”
Henderson lost her son just over a year ago on April 14, 2021.
“Unfortunately, we lost our 12-year-old son to gun violence,” she said. "He was riding with an older sister. They went to go do a transaction that went wrong, and the person they were doing the transaction with shot up the car. It was four people in the car — BJ was the only one that was hit with a bullet. One bullet went through his lungs and his heart, and he died instantly.”
Through her grief, Henderson works to keep the memory of her son alive. With the help of her family, she created the Brian D Henderson Foundation and Project 9:14.
“Trying to put an impact on kids and let them know about safety and how to get away from a bad situation,” Henderson said.
Henderson partnered with New Reflections Technical Institute and YMCA at Saturday's school supply giveaway.
“I think we had over 300 people that were here — I think we served about 200-250,” said Mark Byrd, president and founder of New Reflections Technical Institute.
Byrd acknowleges the added financial stress sending children back to school brings.
“Backpacks. High schoolers need calculators [that are] very, very expensive. Crayons, markers, pencils, pens, everything is needed to start back to school,” Byrd said. “If you come from a low-income family, it’s kind of hard. Groceries are high, gas is high, so we are just trying to do our part to make sure we are in the game.”
By giving back to the community, Henderson is looking forward with a focus on keeping more children safe.
“So just having those conversations with the kids: What have they been doing for the summer? What have they been doing to stay safe? What do they do when they feel upset?” Henderson said. "It’s just those types of conversations. I don’t want you to end up in a situation where BJ was. Even though it had nothing to do with him, I’m sure that my son felt that something was going on because he was scared and he didn’t know how to get out of the situation."