WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Darrell Gaston and Kimberly Watson both know the unimaginable pain of losing a young loved one to gun violence in D.C.
Watson's son and Gaston's godson, 15-year-old Gerald, was a giving child who cared about others. But in December 2018, Gerald was shot multiple times and killed in the type of senseless violence that still impacts families around the district.
The grief is felt every day for the two, especially on anniversaries, birthdays, or the holiday season.
However, on Monday, the family used the pain as a motivation to help others going through a similar experience.
"I’m 34 years old and I know more than 34 people killed in my life," Gaston said. "Last year, the family said how can we carry Gerald's legacy on? We said why don’t we do a Christmas toy giveaway to other families.”
With the car loaded up with Christmas gifts and other items, Gaston and Kimberly headed out with other family members to deliver special packages before the holiday.
One of the recipients included Crystal McNeal, whose 11-year-old son Davon died in a tragic deadly shooting this past Fourth of July. Much like Watson, McNeal knows the daily experience of wanting to see her child alive.
"I’m just coming outside so I can come and meet them," McNeal said Monday night. "I wanted to just stay in the house all day. I’m hurting right now.”
Each meet-up often brings hugs, smiles, and friendly greetings.
This year marked the second time Gaston has delivered the Christmas gifts to families impacted by violence, a tradition he and Watson each hope continues to grow.
"We just left a family of a young boy, 15 years old, who was gunned down a little over a month ago," Gaston said. "It’s about connecting with a family that shares similarities and having them grieve and having them cope with each other.”
"We figured, if we can give back to at least help out, that’ll be a start," Watson added. "We figured, if we start this and we keep going, we can build up a bigger foundation to where people can just all come along.”
Last year, Watson and Gaston spent their own money to give back to the families. But this year, their efforts brought in donations to help even more. In total, Gaston said 67 families received almost 500 gifts combined.
More than anything else, the two said it was important to show support for the families and provide an outlet for their pain.
"I’m glad I have the support from my family. Without them, I wouldn't be able to do it," Watson said. "I just want to tell the families that I know it’s hard. It’s hard for us. My family is a close-knit family and it’s very hard.”
Moving forward, both Watson and Gaston wanted to help even more families as a way to honor Gerald's life.
"For me, it’s a gratitude," Gaston said. "It reminds me of how blessed and lucky I am.”
"My son was a giving person, so I know he would’ve loved it," Watson said between deliveries on Monday. "He loved helping people.”