KANSAS CITY — More than 600 teens and their families are expected to turn out at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City Friday night for a unity walk, short service and moment of silence in honor of the three victims of last Sunday’s fatal shooting spree at the JCC and Village Shalom retirement home.
The attack has been deemed a hate crime.
The walk, planned by teens in Jewish youth groups BBYO, NCSY, USY, and NFTY, will run from 6 p.m. central time until 8 p.m. Following a short Friday night service, the group will walk 1.3 miles from the JCC to Village Shalom carrying candles.
“Johnson County is known as a safe area. For us, the teens, it kind of shook us up,” said Josh Kaseff, a senior at Blue Valley North who helped plan the event. “It kind of popped the bubble of our world. Teens need to lead this.”
BBYO Chapter Two’s youth advisor Brandon Stec said there was a group of nine teenage girls, all members of BBYO, who were in the JCC at the time of the shooting. He told Times of Israel that the girls were texting friends about what was happening and were shaken up by the shooting. Many of the teens knew 14-year-old Reat Underwood.
“We were all messaging each other during the whole thing,” said Stec. “We decided to get everyone together so the teens had an outlet to talk about what happened. They really wanted to do something to show unity in the community and to help with recovery from this tragedy. … That’s how this came about.”
Thomas Corr, a senior at Blue Valley, was able to get hundreds of candles donated for the occasion. A Facebook group was started, which invited teens to take part and has helped spread the word to other community members. The teens have been working closely with the Jewish Community Center, the local federation and Overland Park police.
Kaseff said the walk is an integral component of the event, which is different from the unity service that took place at the JCC on Thursday.
“We needed to honor all three victims,” he said, noting that Terri LaManno was killed at Village Shalom. He also emphasized that they were taking the path murderer F. Glenn Miller Jr. took last Sunday. But this time, the teens will be marching for a better future.
“We want to show that love is stronger than hate,” Kaseff said.
“Stuff like this won’t be tolerated,” Corr added.
Thousands of teenagers were also organized by community activists to build an 80 block “angel wall” to protect the families from Westboro Baptist Church protestors during the April 18 funerals of Underwood and his grandfather, Dr. William Corporon.