On February 15th, 2006 my 18-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. It was an unbearably horrific and confusing time. I was in such deep shock I was barely able to make decisions about anything. Thankfully, several people encouraged me to go to the Christi Center. They put together a small group of moms who had lost their daughter’s to murder before there was even a crime victims’ group and often met with me one on one.
I hadn’t been doing well. My health declined and I was down to 89 pounds. I felt so lost without my daughter and had no family here in Austin. Truthfully, I was barely surviving. I remember looking around in groups at the center and thinking that when I was able to give back in some of the ways that I saw them doing, I’d know I was okay.
Today I speak publicly, sit on boards, committees, panels and I founded an organization named Jennifer’s Hope for the Prevention of Teen Dating Violence. I have had opportunities to reach out in ways I could not have imagined. I value The Christi Center so much. It has been a significant part of my journey because they allowed me a place to talk about my daughter, they sat with me in the many court proceedings regarding Jennifer’s case and have offered me opportunities to volunteer in meaningful, healing ways. Some of the volunteering I do with the Christi Center includes teaching at-risk teens and all stakeholders that work with teens, training crime victim’s advocates, meeting with individual crime victims and speaking to recovering addicts. Cathy Collins (The Christi Center’s Crime Victims’ Advocate), who is now my good friend, and I have shared information booths at a wide variety of events.
Giving back to The Christi Center has been meaningful in so many ways. Working with teens is definitely my greatest passion but being able to help other parents who have lost children has been incredibly rewarding as well. Another of the most significant volunteer opportunities has been speaking to recovering addicts at Austin Recovery Center. I would never have guessed that would be the case but the men and women there ask some very tough, insightful and thought-provoking questions. For example, they often ask me about my journey to forgiveness for the man who murdered my daughter. Many ask this because they have hurt someone and they are looking for forgiveness from someone themselves. it challenges me to consider different perspectives which helps me heal.
Being able to volunteer in these ways has given me the gift of knowing that I’m not only ‘okay’ but I’m able to honor my daughter by helping others and that means the world to me.