By Kelly MacConomy
The Virginia Tech Victims Family Outreach Foundation has been very active in the Alexandria Community since Parkfairfax resident and longtime Alexandria activist Paul Alan Friedman became executive director of the organization which was founded in October, 2009. Paul, an attorney originally from Connecticut, joined the foundation in 2016, having worked as a non-profit development director for three separate children’s organizations following a career as a Congressional aide and campaign staffer.
Families of the 32 victims and survivors of the April 16, 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech joined together to create something meaningful out of so painful a personal tragedy. Campaign 32 was launched in the hopes of strengthening the nation’s gun background check system.
Under Paul’s stewardship VTV established an adopt-a-park “parknership” memorial grove of Virginia native species trees in collaboration with the VA Tech satellite campus Landscape Architecture program based in Old Town. Student volunteers from TC Williams High School, adjacent to Chinquapin Park where the living memorial was placed helped plant the trees. The VTV Grove was designed as a place of peaceful reflection, representing the 32 lives lost as well as the 17 wounded individuals who survived the tragedy.
The memorial was dedicated last April. Congressman Don Beyer’s wife Megan Beyer, Mayor Allison Silberberg, Senator Adam Ebbin, Delegate Mark Levine, VTV President Joe Samaha and Delegate Chris Hurst from Roanoke, whose fiancée Alison Parker television news reporter was murdered on air in 2015, spoke eloquently at the dedication of the memorial. Subsequently the City installed the official park department sign denoting the VTV Park.
Paul recently hosted a VTV friendraising event in Monticello Park. Local businessman and philanthropist Jack Taylor, founder of Jack Taylor Toyota, generously opened his delightful home to friends and community leaders in support of the outstanding work the outreach foundation has been doing these past nine years. Hardly a week passes without news of another tragic loss of life due to an unstable person in unlawful possession of a firearm. Attending as guest speakers were Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter and Virginia Secretary of Safety and former Alexandria Delegate Brian Moran joining VTV President Joe Samaha and his wife Mona whose lovely and talented daughter Reema lost her life that April day 21 years ago. Alexandria and former candidate for Lt. Governor as well as television political commentator rock star Gene Rossi was also a special guest.
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who was unable to attend due to a commitment at a law enforcement training retreat, was the official host for evening. In his absence his wife Linda acted as the hostess with the mostest, serving a tempting variety of savory and sweet fare donated by local businesses. The baklava made by Atlantis Pizza proved to be irresistible.
Mayor Allison Silberberg, Senator Adam Ebbin, Delegate Mark Levine, Councilwomen Elect Amy Jackson and Elizabeth Bennett Parker as well as Councilwoman Del Pepper, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and School Board Vice Chair Christopher Lewis joined the many distinguished guests and supporters of the VTV outreach mission.
This month on Monday December 10 at the Metro Stage, VTV presents a very special reading of the play “Church and State”. The author Jason Odell Williams joins former Congressman Jim Moran on stage in a fundraising event for the foundation. Tickets are $32. Every ticket holder is entered into a raffle to win a Pedego electric bike donated by Pedego Alexandria valued at $3,295 dollars. Additional tickets may be purchased at $32 a piece. With only 320 tickets to be sold the odds of winning are very good. The holder of every raffle ticket is entitled to a one hour test drive of the Pedego electric bicycle.
A 6:30 reception precedes the 7:00 p.m. play reading with an audience open discussion to follow at 8:30. Tickets for “Church and State” may be reserved at [email protected]/VTFPLAYNRAFFLE For information contact Paul Friedman at [email protected]