BLOOMINGTON — Jesica Kaupp wants to be part of the solution to gun violence in the Twin Cities.
"This is the 'Taking Back the Block' party," she said of the event she's organizing from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Sunnyside Park in Bloomington. "We need to create a good atmosphere for these kids so they don't go into the bad life of guns and violence."
Kaupp's is one of several events over the next week that will bring Twin City residents together to help kids and discuss solutions in the wake of a series of shootings over the past two months that have left seven people dead and five others wounded.
Police and other agencies continued to investigate the shootings on Friday, but no new information was released. No arrests have been made in this week's Riley Drive shooting or the June 10 Orchard Road shooting.
Lifting up the community
Kaupp hopes her block party's activities and food will give local youth a chance to interact in a productive way.
YouthBuild McLean County and other local organizations and individuals are donating materials to Kaupp, who's hosting the event independent of any specific community group.
"I thought of this idea three days ago after I decided enough is enough," said Kaupp, a front desk employee at Country Inn and Suites in Bloomington, city resident and mother of four. "There's been an overwhelming outpouring of compassion. ... If we have more people out here doing the same things, I feel like it's going to help our kids. They're going to have somebody to lean on."
Tracey Polson, YouthBuild's executive director, said the agency is proud to donate hot dogs, hot dog buns and bottled water for the event. Kaupp is a YouthBuild graduate.
"Doing good things to help others in our community is an important value taught at YouthBuild," said Polson. "It is wonderful to see Jesica taking initiative and making good things happen for the families at Sunnyside."
Finding more solutions
Two other upcoming events will facilitate discussion about how to stop gun violence in Bloomington-Normal.
The first, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, is a community meeting at Grace Deliverance Church, 622 S. Clinton St. in Bloomington, organized "in light of all of the recent senseless acts of violence and crimes that have taken place in our community," according to a post on the church's Facebook page.
"This meeting will allow those residents who are interested in 'Ignite Change' within Bloomington-Normal to rally together to create a plan of action and formulate change within our community. Please join us," said the post.
WGLT will host a similar event at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Prairie Room at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center.
A panel discussion moderated by the station's newsroom will include William Bennett, pastor of City of Refuge Ministries and a member of Bloomington's Public Safety and Community Relations Board; Karen Irvin, a member of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America's local chapter; and Allen Chambers, a community leader.
The public will be able to ask questions, share their stories and offer possible solutions.
Mourning those lost
A prayer walk in Bloomington, also on Sunday, is being hosted by Grace Church of the Nazarene in Bloomington. The walk will start at 8 p.m. Sunday at the church parking lot, 610 IAA Drive, and end in the 300 block of Riley Drive, the scene of Monday's shooting that left three men dead and injured a 4-year-old boy who is recovering at an area hospital.
“We just want to reach out and support those affected by this tragedy,” said Mike Oleniczak, pastor at Grace Church of the Nazarene. "We have a small congregation, but we have three families that live on Riley Drive.”