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Thousands join Obamas for event

WASHINGTON – Families that lost loved ones to gun violence were among 30,000 guests who joined the Obamas on Monday at a sun-soaked White House Easter Egg Roll.

One of them, Nathaniel Pendleton Jr., 10, whose sister Hadiya was gunned down in January near the Obamas’ home on Chicago’s South Side, played doubles tennis with President Barack Obama.

“I kind of messed up a lot,” the boy said later. The fifth-grader, a novice player, said he takes a racket in hand only about once a year. The president, however, judged his attempts to hit the ball as a “good job.”

Another attendee was Neil Heslin, who lost his 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December.

Celebs who turned out included wunderkind Robbie Novak, the “Kid President” from YouTube; Mr. Potato Head; race car driver Danica Patrick; and, of course, the Easter bunny.

–MCT News Service

Addressing Novak in front of the crowd, first lady Michelle Obama had an April Fool’s Day joke: “You’re going to spend a little time in the Oval Office just fixing things up for this president, aren’t you?”

Most guests at the 135th annual egg roll won tickets in a lottery, but some went to military families. A native of McHenry, Ill., Marine Staff Sgt. Brad Castle, 28, brought his wife and son, Anthony, 6. They live in the Washington area.

Anthony Castle got to ask President Obama a homework question: How many teams from his bracket made the Final Four?

The answer was one. And Obama’s performance on the basketball court with his guests was even further off. He made only 2 of 22 shots, according to a press pool report.

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was slain Jan. 29 a week after traveling to Washington to perform in Obama’s inauguration festivities.

Michelle Obama attended her funeral and hosted her parents at the State of the Union speech. Her mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, and Nathaniel Pendleton Jr. were at the White House on Thursday when the president urged Congress to act on gun control measures.

The woman brought two sisters, their children and other relatives to the egg roll at the first lady’s invitation. One high point, she said, was watching nieces and nephews play basketball with the president. “They all had a blast.”

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©2013 Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): EASTEREGGROLL

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White House holds annual Easter egg roll

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