Mindy Corporon lost her son and father during a violent hate crime in 2014 at the Jewish Community Center. Three years later, Sunayana Dumala lost her husband to a violent hate crime at a bar in Olathe.
Although their faiths and nationalities differ, Corporon’s and Dumala’s profound experiences with grief run parallel and out of their pain, both have chosen to build mountains of hope.
Individually and collaboratively, Corporon and Dumala are transforming their tragic losses into action. Through their organizations, the Faith Always Wins Foundation and Forever Welcome, Corporon and Dumala share a vision in which people of all faiths and backgrounds come together, discover shared commonalities, and respond to hate with kindness.
The two women also share an important friendship.
Just a few months after her husband was killed, Dumala spoke at an event Corporon attended and an instant bond formed in that very first meeting.
“Before I was going to speak, Mindy put her hand on my knee and I felt so comforted,” Dumala said. “We connected at a deep level the first time we met, because she understood. I felt very comforted that this person shared my pain and could be on my side through the process.”
That process of grieving, and responding to the grief with vision and courage, started with Corporon mere months after her son and father were shot to death.
Partnering with Jim LaManno, who also lost his wife during the shooting spree, she founded Faith Always Wins.
That led to the creation of “SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World,” a week-long series of events focused on acts of kindness and opportunities for people to learn about others’ faith and ethnicity. SevenDays benefits Faith Always Wins and the LaManno-Hastings Family Foundation.
“We decided we would respond to evil with good,” Corporon said.
Dumala — in partnership of her employer, Intouch Solutions — launched her own initiative in January called Forever Welcome, which also is focused on generating empathy and understanding for others, especially those who’ve immigrated to the United States.
“Srinivas and I came here because the United States is known as the land of dreams,” Dumala said. “I started my campaign to spread the message that America still welcomes all. It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s we. We all belong in America. In that shooting, I saw the worst and the best of America. We have to let good win.”
During this year’s SevenDays, which is scheduled for April 10-16, three events will be in collaboration with Forever Welcome.
While Corporon and Dumala have created powerful movements for good, that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy journey for either woman.
“In the process of grief, I find strength through my faith,” Corporon said. “I know I will see (my) dad (William) and Reat (Underwood) in heaven, but I’m still here. The pain can be excruciating. Sometimes I can’t breathe, but when I spread our message, my heart doesn’t hurt. I determined that this was how I could not feel the pain, so I press forward and my heart doesn’t hurt.”
Dumala also finds refuge from her grief and pain in trying to make the world more tolerant for others.
“At the time I lost my husband, dreams of having a family were shattered,” she said. “To not be able to have or talk to him is unbelievable. The thought that everything could be taken from me like this is hell. I don’t want others to go through this hell.
“The most important thing Srinivas did was to motivate me. After all he taught me, it would be an injustice, if I fail him. It’s tough but I have to be that independent, strong woman he always wanted me to be. I have to speak and tell this story.
“Hope is powerful. It’s hope that moves us forward. We move forward to make change. Though you know you can’t stop everyone, you hope your message will move us forward.”