Hate touched Jim LaManno and Mindy Corporon in a profound and permanent way. It claimed those whom they held dear — a wife, a father and a son.
United by that horrible experience, the two friends have been reaching back with kindness ever since.
It’s why their names are recognizable to most Kansas Citians. In 2014, a white supremacist slithered into Overland Park intent on murdering Jews. He shot and killed Corporon’s father and son, William Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood. Then he turned his gun on LaManno’s wife of 25 years, Terri LaManno.
Kansas City, mortified by the evil acts, would have understood if grief had consumed these two survivors.
But that hasn’t happened. Shortly after the murders, planning began for what has evolved into SevenDays, a series of events focused on kindness, love and understanding.
Tuesday begins the third annual week-long effort to embrace diversity and tackle a range of complex issues. This year’s events are especially noteworthy because SevenDays is diving deeper on complicated subjects, pushing the community to have more difficult conversations.
This year, Saturday will focus on mental health, with sessions led by experts who use improv as a means of therapy to deal with grief. The impetus for that addition illustrates how these two leaders continue to grow.
A year after the murders, Corporon’s surviving son, Lukas Losen, began to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. When his family rushed to the scenes of the shootings that day in 2014, Lukas saw LaManno’s wife in the parking lot where she fell after being shot. The memory, along with the sorrow of losing his older brother Reat, began to compound.
“I felt like a bad parent,” Corporon said, remembering when Lukas’ school called her with concerns. She hadn’t realized how much her son was suffering.
She immediately decided that hate was not going to claim both of her children.
The family found Lukas the help that he needed. But the experience taught them much about how grief entwines with stress, stunting people’s ability to function.
LaManno too, has learned, coping with the profound impact the murder of his wife has had on his family. When Terri died, their adult children were in college.
Suddenly, LaManno found himself alone, parenting solo as his children completed their educations and began their careers.
“It’s just not the same family that I had before,” he said.
But now, Corporon and LaManno are thinking of others and focusing on the violence that happens too often in urban Kansas City. Corporon speaks with concern about mothers, fathers and siblings who do not have the same access to care and therapists that she feels privileged to have.
On Saturday, two workshops will be offered, one focused on young people ages 14 to 21. A separate session will be for adults dealing with anxiety or loss. It’s also designed for therapists, school counselors and other behavioral health professionals.
The slogan for the week remains the same, highlighting the impact one caring act can accomplish: Make a ripple, change the world.
Kansas City should heed that guidance and follow the courageous example of Corporon and LaManno.
A week of kindness and understanding
SevenDays is a challenge for young and old to embrace diversity across race, religion and culture. Each day has theme. Some events require registration.
Tuesday: Kickoff celebration at 6:30 p.m. at The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah, 12320 Nall Ave. in Overland Park.
Wednesday: Violence, community and faith, an American Public Square event at 5:30 p.m., UMKC, Atterbury Student Center, Pierson Auditorium, 5000 Holmes Rd. in Kansas City.
Thursday: Edie Lutnick, president of The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund and author of the book, “An Unbroken Bond: The Untold Story of How the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald Families Faced the Tragedy of 9-11 and Beyond” at 6 p.m., Church of the Resurrection, Wesley Chapel, 13720 Roe Ave. in Leawood.
Friday:Navigating through grief and the importance of organ and tissue donation. Program will be simultaneously translated in Spanish. 7 p.m., St. Anthony Catholic Church, 309 Benton Blvd. in Kansas City.
Saturday: Ali Kemp Educational Foundation’s critically acclaimed self defense program, T.A.K.E. Defense Workshop. Girls and women are welcome, ages 12 years and older. 10 a.m., University Academy, 6801 Holmes Rd. in Kansas City. Also, using improv as a therapeutic tool, a daylong event from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 15915 W. 143rd St. in Olathe.
Sunday: Youth Interfaith Workshop at 5:30 p.m. at Cleveland University at 8205 W. 108th Terrace, #100 in Overland Park.
Monday: 5:30 p.m. pre-walk events, 6:30 p.m. 5K walk followed by food trucks at Union Station in Kansas City.