PEORIA (AP) – Forrest Holcomb Jr. wants the memory of his son to be a force for good in the lives of others who could be victims of gun violence.
That’s why Holcomb helped initiate peace walks in some of the highest crime areas of the city last summer – and why he’s christening a program to provide mentoring to children this summer.
“This program, I don’t think I ever would have started if it hadn’t been for my son,” Holcomb said. “It was like God said, ‘This is your calling; do this.’”
Christopher was 24 years old in July 2013 when he became involved in a confrontation with police in front of his father’s home following gunshots being fired. The weapon he had was not legally obtained, and the younger Holcomb shot and killed himself in front of police and others, the father said.
The deterrence walks that the elder Holcomb helped initiate last year included men from a group of churches. They would gather in high crime areas – at high crime times late at night – and simply walk the streets together, offering to help those they encountered with guidance or prayer.
The walks lasted through the warm months and will begin again in June, Holcomb said.
The Save a Child Program also kicked off June 1 with an event featuring free food, drinks and entertainment at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
“We’re just hoping things will go right to set it off,” Holcomb said leading up to the event. “We want to provide a place for kids to talk about their problems. My son had a pretty hard life – my wife and I had problems at one time, and the kids ended up in foster care. That took a toll on him.
“I just don’t want to see kids have those kinds of problems.”
The Save a Child Program has been established as a not-for-profit group with the goal of connecting children ages 8 to 15 with positive role models and basic needs like food, clothing and furniture for the young people and their families. The program also hopes to regularly sponsor outings to venues like museums, fairs and movies.
Holcomb has secured a truck to transport donations and is looking for a building to house supplies for the group.
“We’re just asking for a chance to help a family or two,” Holcomb said. “If we save one child, it’s well worth it.”