News Local/State

‘Wear Orange’ Group Spreads Message In Champaign

Mary Kay Mace, the mother of NIU shooting victim Ryanne Mace, addressed a crowd at Champaign's Westside Park Thursday.

Mary Kay Mace, the mother of NIU shooting victim Ryanne Mace, addressed a crowd at Champaign's Westside Park Thursday. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery read through the names of local shooting victims the last two years alone during an event at Champaign's Westside Park Thursday.  Fifty years ago, she lost her mother to gun violence.  Avery and Mary Kay Mace, the mother of Northern Illinois University shooting victim Ryanne Mace, were among those who spoke as National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Ryanne, Mace's only child, died with four other students in the 2008 shootings at NIU.  Mace later learned the shooter bought his guns legally, despite a long history of mental illness.

“And I was compelled to find out all I could about the holes in the system," he said. "A system that I had mistakenly assumed that I was up to the task of keeping us safe.  It was darn near impossible to get anyone to talk to me about it.  And really, all I wanted to figure out was a way to keep what happened to my family from happening to anyone else.”

Mace lives in Springfield, but says Champaign’s chapter of Moms Demand Action was holding the closest Wear Orange event on Thursday.

She says 91 Americans die each day through gun violence. 

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of a new approach to addressing gun violence in Champaign-Urbana is happy to see other groups spreading his message.

Champaign Community Relations Coordinator Tracy Parsons recently spoke to the Champaign and Urbana city councils as part of C-U Fresh Start, which combines the efforts of law enforcement and the community.

Parsons says his group has events planned that are similar to Thursday's, including one in two weeks in Champaign's Garden Hills neighborhood.

“We have a full plan this summer to be out in many communities and neighborhoods as we can to promote awareness of our gun violence issues – and talk with our community about how address it together," he said.  We must say to the community that this is unacceptable.”

Attendees of 'Wear Orange' rally at Champaign's Westside park pose for a group photo Thursday.

Photo Credit: Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

About 50 people attended the ‘Wear Orange’ event in Champaign’s Westside Park organized by Central Illinois Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

'Wear Orange' was inspired by friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year old Chicago high school student killed by gunfire 2013, days after performing in an inaugural for President Barack Obama.