Birthday celebration in honor of girl killed serves as awareness about gun violence against children

Saryah is one of over 1,000 children and teens killed by gun violence in 2021

San Antonio – The family of a little girl who was shot and killed earlier this year is turning their grief into action to combat an alarming trend of young lives taken because of gun violence.

Saryah Perez was gunned down on Mother’s Day at the young age of 6.

Her family gathered at the Pearl Tuesday evening, Oct. 12 for what would have been her 7th birthday.

“We were blessed to have her for six years,” said Cynthia Alvarez, her grandmother. “We will continue to celebrate her birthday as if she is still here every year.”

Together, the family released balloons and flower petals in honor of Saryah and one of her favorite places to be.

“She is still with us,” Alvarez wept. “She is still with her mother, her dad, and her brothers. She is still with us.”

Young Saryah is one of hundreds of young people killed by gun violence.

The organization Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun violence deaths nationwide, stated in 2019, 991 lives of people age 17 or younger were lost due to gun violence.

In 2020. That number increased to 1,375.

It is a trend officials fear is worsening as in 2021, there have already been 1,179 lives lost and 3,292 children and teens injured.

“It is concerning to me,” Alvarez said. “Because, not only did it happen to Saryah, but after that, it has happened to several children and that is devastating. Anybody can pick up a gun and we don’t want another family to go through what we went through for Saryah. It is devastating and it is heartbreaking.”

Alvarez started Saryah Lee’Anna’s Blessings in honor of her granddaughter with a sole mission to help children and other families who are in their shoes. It is expected to be granted non-profit status in the next 20-30 days.

“We know we can’t stop all of the guns out there, but we will try and we will fight extra hard for her,” she said. “Not only did she go through it but other children right after her did and we don’t want that for another family. A gun doesn’t have a name to anybody.”

Another organization trying to keep our younger generation off the street is 100 Black Men of San Antonio Incorporated.

It is a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community through mentorship.

“A very very high high school dropout rates, young people are out on the streets and some are homeless, and they are just easy to get caught up in crime,” said Milton Harris, the executive director. “A large demographic of young people we work with are high school dropouts and many of the young males feel that the only opportunity for them is to be on the streets and hustle.”

He said it is alarming to see the numbers trend upward as far as gun violence deaths with the younger population, but he stresses it is important to have organizations like his in a community.

Their organization has a YouthBuild program which has had a 95% success rate getting young adults graduated and into the workforce.

He believes a strong way to crack down on the gun violence is to teach the younger generation about the value of life.

“If we don’t love and value ourselves, we are not going to love and value anyone else and this is what we are dealing with in a community where their decision is just to turn to a gun and be violent,” Harris said. “That individual has lost love and value for themselves.”

Alvarez agrees saying she hopes people learn to take responsibility for their actions.

She also had these words of wisdom to say to other families in her position.

“Keep fighting no matter what because at the end of the day that bright star that looks down on you is a bright star that keeps you guarded at all times,” she said.


About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray is a reporter with KSAT12 News.