Peter Pan Park turned orange on Saturday.
In celebration of the lives of victims and survivors of gun violence, the Emporia branch of Moms Demand Action hosted a “Wear Orange” event in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which was Saturday.
The national event began five years ago, after the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Pendleton studied at King College Prep High School and performed at Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade. She was shot and killed in Chicago January 29, 2013.
This year, Moms Demand Action set up free ice cream with orange sprinkles, cookies with orange frosting, orange streamers and balloons, lawn games and informational stations to learn more about gun safety awareness and the Moms Demand Action organization.
Moms Demand Action member Connie Hudson explained that orange is the color hunters wear to announce themselves to other hunters. She said the color is also symbolic of the value of human life and of peace.
“We wear orange to honor the victims and survivors of gun violence,” she said. “We wear orange to declare that we, as a country, need to do much more to reduce gun violence. We wear orange to encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep our children safe.”
Moms Demand Action ventures to provide information on gun safety and on the current types of legislation on gun laws.
“I hope [the families attending] learn more about gun safety and how there is an organization, even locally, that works toward making Emporia safer for all of us,” Moms Demand Action member Gail Milton said.
One of the information tables covered the Be Smart program. Moms Demand Action teaches people who have guns in their homes how they can store those guns more safely.
Moms Demand Action member, school board member and teacher Mallory Koci said she implements gun violence awareness in her home with her husband and 8-year-old son by openly discussing active shooter drills at school and what kinds of things may lead someone to commit such a crime.
“We also talk about how to be safe around guns,” she said. “Even though we don’t have any guns in our home, my kid might go to someone else’s house for a playdate and might find a gun, so that’s why the Be Smart program is really great.”
She said her son thinks that an active shooter is an abstract and scary thing, but he feels better prepared because of the drills they do at school.
“It’s a hard conversation to have, because you don’t want to make it too serious so that it’s very, very scary, but at the same time not be real with children," Koci said. "When he asks questions, he deserves an answer.”
She said the schools are working toward safer entryways, including keypad locks and cameras. She also said by partnering with organizations like CrossWinds, schools and the community can better address bullying and other social problems that add to those security measures.
Moms Demand Action will begin their monthly meetings beginning in August. There is an Emporia State University branch called Students Demand Action that will also have meetings come August.