Some wishes, of course, are too big for even Santa to make come true.
Clad all in red, his white beard full, he bent low Saturday from his waist and stared into the eyes of the child whose mother was murdered only two weeks ago.
“Santa! Santa!” 4-year-old MiAJah Jackson had been chirping, tugging with excitement on Santa’s white cuff and, as she did so, smiling if only a little bit.
Just the night before, as 40-year-old Marvellae Clark told it, the granddaughter now in her care had been in tears and inconsolable.
“She cried all last night, ‘I miss my mama. I love my mama,’” Clark shared. “I tell her ‘She’s in heaven. She’s watching you, looking over you.’”
On Nov. 12, MiAJah’s mother, 25-year-old MarYanna Pennington was killed from multiple gunshot wounds after her car broke down at about 10 p.m. at 21st Street and Cleveland Avenue.
Pennington had been returning from a wedding with three women that included her sister, 24-year-old Marseanna. After the car broke down, it was allegedly approached by DeAndre Jackson, the 24-year-old twin-brother of Pennington’s long-time companion, who had also been fatally shot in 2013.
Jackson, 24, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder for Pennington’s death. He also allegedly shot multiple rounds into the three other women. Pennington’s sister, Marseanna, now lies in the Intensive Care Unit at Truman Medical Center, shot five times, suffering wounds to her lungs and spinal chord.
“She might be paralyzed,” said Clark, who is now caring for her daughters’ combined five children.
Sometimes, the best Santa can do is help a child be a child as best he can.
It was with that in mind, that five years ago, Monica Roberts, founded her volunteer organization, Healing Pathway Victim Services Agency. Each year, it works with the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department to try to lift the suffering of children just a little bit. For the past years, it has held a Christmas party for the children of the year’s homicide victims in Kansas City, Mo.
More than 50 families were invited this year. At least that many came together Saturday afternoon inside the gymnasium at the South Patrol campus, 9701 Marion Park Drive, just south of Bannister Road.
“It was an unmet need,” Roberts said. “A lot of the homicides after they occur, a lot of the children are left without the basic supports. One of the things, is that they miss out on the special days, like birthdays and Christmas.”
As part of the day, police officers sponsor the families of homicide victims. They dip into their own pockets to buy gifts for the children. It is not uncommon for the officers to buy the gifts to be the same officers who were called to work the death of a family member.
For the afternoon, the kids run around,. playing basketball and bean bag toss. They were served pizza and lasagna, given toys and candy.
Bobbi Murray, 28, brought her daughter, Josslyn, 6, and Juli, 8. Their father, Andres Garcia-Jimenez, 33, was murdered the weekend before Halloween outside a club.
“Thanksgiving was hard. It was his birthday,” Murray said of Garcia.
She came to the event to get her children out of the house, play and be children and think of something pleasant.
“They talk about Christmas all the time. They’re children,” she said.
Precious Bland, age 20, arrived with a number of relatives, along with the children of her late sister, Cheri Bland. Bland, 28, was killed in August at the 7th Heaven store at 7621 Troost by her husband, Desmond Bland, who then took his own life.
She brought the kids — Tahjiana, 11, and Aaliyah, soon to turn 8, and Diamond, 10, and Samaria, 9, and 1-year-old Keneisha. “To make them feel normal,” she said.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James, as did former Kansas City Royal and current Jackson County Executive Frank White.
“We have had a bad year…” James told those gathered. Kansas City, as of Saturday afternoon, had logged 114 homicides. “By bad year, I’m talking about the level of violence. I’m talking about the level of discourse…So why don’t we all, as a Christmas present to ourselves, make a pledge that we will not participate in the negative. We will not participate in the violence. We will protect those who need protection. We will come to the aid to those who are being bullied and pushed around.
“Because if we make that pledge, everybody in this city will be better for it. …Because, at the end of the day, love always conquers hate. And we always have to be the ones on the love side.”
Later, Santa would lift 1-year-old Keneisha Bell into his arms, walking through the crowd, and children ran to greet him.