By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — April 13, 2014, was a Sunday like any other — attending church with family, making plans for family dinner, visiting relatives and sharing activities — until the unthinkable made it horrific. Terri LaManno was on her way to visit her mother at Village Shalom, Reat Griffin Underwood and his grandfather Dr. William L. (Bill) Corporon had just arrived at the Jewish Community Campus where Reat was to audition in an American-Idol style talent show. A man screaming anti-Semitic epithets fired his gun, killing Reat, 14, and Dr. Corporon, 69. As Terri, 53, got out of her car across the street, he ran toward her, firing again, leaving a third victim of his personal holocaust. There was a terrible irony in the shootings: all three victims were Christian.
April 13, 2015, is the one year anniversary of the shootings. For several months, a number of folks have been planning seven days of faith, love, connections and peace in memory and honor of Reat, Terri and Bill. Seven Days, Make a Ripple, Change the World, begins April 7 and concludes April 13.
Three initiatives — Faith Love and Song; Faith Love and Kindness and Faith, Love and Walk — have been begun to help promote understanding and encourage kindness. Earlier this year, the Faith, Love and Song songwriting competition was launched. Fourteen to 21 year olds were invited to submit original songs addressing racial, religious and/or cultural equality and acceptance. The competition was geared toward promoting understanding, tolerance and acceptance through the arts. Two foundations, RRACE (Racial and Religious Acceptance and Cultural Equality) and Faith Always Wins, were established after the shootings to help foster good, and the competition is a partnership of both. A panel of three judges from the music and entertainment industry was to select the finalists by March 15. A public vote March 29-April 4 will help choose the top three compositions through “likes” on “You Tube.” The winners are to be announced April 13.
SevenDays of Kindness – a new beginning.
The heartfelt event, an inspiration of Mindy Corporon, Reat’s mother and Bill Corporon’s daughter, and Jim LaManno, sponsored by Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, Mo., the Jewish Community Campus in Overland Park, Kan., and metro area businesses, begins with a Day of Love, an interfaith sharing of prayer, discussions of what it means to love your neighbor and the commonalities of many faith traditions. It begins at 7 p.m., in the Oak Room of Leawood City Hall, 4800 Town Center Drive, Leawood. We are all encouraged to give someone a hug, treat someone and show kindness.
Day 2, Discover, features Holocaust survivor Sonia Warshawski, telling her story and how forgiveness helped her survive, 7 p.m., Rockhurst High School’s Rose Theatre, 9010 State Line Road, Kansas City, Mo. We are all encouraged to explore a different culture or religion; plan or attend a cultural event and connect with someone new.
Day 3, Others, features Rwandan genocide survivor Jacqueline Murekatete, and Tyrone Flowers, founder of Higher M-Pact, a mentoring program for high risk urban teens, speaking at St. Peter’s Church, 701 E. Meyer Blvd, Kansas City, 7 – 9 p.m. Door open at 6:30 pm. Parking available on Meyer Blvd. We are all encouraged to do a good deed; donate our time or be a mentor to someone.
On Day 4, Connect, Blue Valley High School and Blue Valley North high schools will host Jacqueline Murekatete to speak to students in the morning and again in the afternoon. The talks are not open to the public, but we are all encouraged to explore our heritages, gather with family at the table and reach out to others.
Day 5, Go, will be a day for us all to enjoy the outdoors, plan or attend a physical activity; take a field trip or enjoy one of the numerous activities being planned around the metropolitan Kansas City area.
Day 6, You, will feature an invitation-only party for event sponsors. We are all encouraged to spend that Sunday taking time for personal growth, feeling proud of what we have accomplished and doing something for ourselves.
Day 7, Onward. On the anniversary of the shootings, a special Mass will be celebrated at 8:15 a.m., at St. Peter’s Church, 701 E. Meyer Blvd, Kansas City, Mo., in memory of parishioner Terri LaManno, Reat Underwood and Dr. Bill Corporon. In the evening, there will be a Peace Walk, beginning at the Jewish Community Campus, 5801 W. 115th Street, Overland Park, and ending at the Church of the Resurrection 13720 Roe Ave., Leawood. Parking will be available at Church of the Resurrection with shuttles running to the Jewish Community Campus. Registration will be 5 – 6 p.m.; and following remarks by Mayors Carl Gerlach of Overland Park, Kan., and Sly James of Kansas City, Mo., the Walk begins at 6 p.m. It is expected to conclude by 8 p.m. A celebration, 8 – 8:45 p.m., will feature performances of the winning song-writing compositions, candle lighting and more.
During the day leading up to the Walk, we are all encouraged to act beyond today (in other words, act for the future), make kindness a habit and in our own small ways change the world.
LaManno hopes that during the SevenDays, “relationships will be rekindled, promising new connections formed and one ripple of kindness turned into an unstoppable wave of faith and love.”
For more information on SevenDays and the Peace Walk, and to register for the Walk, visit www.give sevendays.org