Hundreds step out for YWCA Aurora Peace Walk

Speech from Martin Luther King's daughter resonateMembers of West Aurora's Gospel Choir performed at the recent YWCA Aurora Leaders of Change Lunc

Hundreds step out for Aurora peace walk

Aurora peace walk

Linda Girardi

Aurora Beacon-News

October 20, 2016

 

Hundreds of luminarias cast a peaceful glow to the Fox River trail this week for the YWCA Aurora Week Without Violence Peace Walk.

Cheryl Maraffio, a longtime peace advocate, came with six fresh rose stems - one each for the survivors of her son, Louis S. Sacckette - to place at a memorial stone in his name in the YWCA Aurora Peace Park dedicated in 1999 along the path on River Street.

"You learn to work around the pain," Maraffio said. "There are days when the scab gets peeled back and the feelings are raw again," the tearful mom said, adding, "Today is one of those days."

Known as Lou to family, he was killed in a drive-by shooting Oct. 19, 2000, on the southeast side. Sacckette, 30, had stepped onto the front porch of his girlfriend's house for a cigarette after helping with household repairs when someone in a van opened fire at a crowd of kids returning from a high school bonfire.

Sacckette's daughter, Samantha Sacckette, was 9 years old when her father was slain. She now has a four-year old daughter, Alexis. Another daughter, Taylor, was 5. His sister, Amy McDonald, also came to Wednesday's Peace Walk.

One man was shot multiple times, while Maraffio's son died hours later from a fatal wound to the head. The family marked the 16th anniversary of his death by attending the Peace Walk.

Maraffio became a peace advocate, attending the YWCA peace walks and Prayer Coalition for Recognition peace vigils. She is now a community coordinator assisting in growing the city's Neighborhood Watch groups. The shooting remains unsolved, she said.

"Lou loved to fish, that's why his memorial is so appropriate near the river," the mother said. "He would fish 24 hours a day if he could have."

"Lou loved the outdoors, sports and his children," Maraffio said.

The YWCA Week Without Violence is a national campaign held during the third week of October to raise public awareness about violence in homes and communities. One of the goals is to create a dialogue.

People were invited to sponsor luminaria in memory of victims and survivors of violence. The group of walkers gathered at the YWCA Peace Garden located down a hill of River Street on the west side of the Fox River, then headed north for a one-mile walk to the Illinois Avenue Bridge.

"Violence has no demographic boundaries," said Melissa Nigro, YWCA executive director and CEO. Nigro said violence is known to all age groups, races, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. "No community is immune," she said.

Nigro, in her leadership role for one year, decided to bring back the event after some years of absence, in hopes it would "raise awareness and mobilize people to appreciate differences and solve issues non-violently." The purpose, she said, was to remember victims and survivors of domestic violence, homicide, natural disasters, military actions, terrorism and gang violence.

The organization held a peace vigil after the Orlando shootings last summer. "The numbers are staggering," she said of national trends. The YWCA invited their partners, including representatives from the Aurora domestic violence shelter, Aurora Police Department, local churches and schools.

Michelle Meyer, executive director of Mutual Ground, shed light on domestic violence and sexual assault occurrences. Meyer said in a period from July to September, 62 people sought refuge at the shelter. She said 343 people and 98 children received counseling services, and the nonprofit assisted in 81 orders of protection. Meyer said 77 victims of sexual assault came through their doors in the two month period.

"The people who come through our doors only want peace in their lives. You are helping to bring peace to our community," she told them.

Aurora Police Sgt. Timothy Jones, West Side Supervisor for Community Policing Unit Area 1, commended the group for stepping out. "Violence is horrible across the board, especially violence against women," he said.

Jones had worked in the police department's domestic violence reduction unit. "I was sickened by the reports that came through the unit and the acts perpetrated against victims," he said. He said events like this were meaningful in raising awareness and offering support to victims.

Avis Miller, another Peace Walk participant, is active in her Neighborhood Watch Group and Main Baptist Church. "Violence in Aurora is nowhere near the scale of violence in the city of Chicago, but one senseless death is horrible," Miller said.

Maraffio never retreated after the loss of her son.

"When it was time to say goodbye to Lou, I promised him good things would happen out of this. I knew it was up to me to be his voice for peace and non-violence in this community," she said before joining the peace walk.

"I began to see other mothers who were in a similar situation as our family. I thought that I could help raise the level of awareness against violence in this community. When I received the phone call that my son was shot 16 years ago tonight, I knew in my heart that he wouldn't make it. A mother knows these things," she said.

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