CLARENDON HILLS — It was a bittersweet sight on the lawn of Church of the Holy Nativity in Clarendon Hills on Sunday.
Volunteers as young as 4 years old braved the cold and blistering winds to help address an issue that has become all too common in the Chicago area: Death as a result of gun violence.
To remember victims and increase awareness, the Rev. Aimée Delevett gathered church members and volunteers to help install crosses on church lawn. Each cross represents an individual who died from gun violence in Chicago and its suburbs so far in 2013.
Only a few months into the year, the group posted more than 60 crosses on Sunday.
"I think there's a level where people turn on the news at night and this washes over them and they get so immune to it," said Delevett, who has been preaching at the church for a little more than six years. "This is not something people become immune to. These are people dying. These are people killing one another."
Draped over each cross was a colored T-shirt, handwritten with the person's name and age. Victims range in age from toddlers to the elderly.
"We had about 60 T-shirts to make and I was really concerned people were going to be like, 'Oh, I have to go,' and couldn't stay, but people did not budge until all 60 shirts were finished," Delevett said.
It was the youth in particular Delevett wanted to reach with the message. One of the youngest helpers on Sunday was Jody Collins' 4-year-old daughter, Natalie, who was the first person to grab a hammer and start setting up a cross.
"I told her we were making crosses for people who died and they got shot by a gun," said Collins, of Willowbrook. "She wanted to hammer the crosses in by herself and she was able to do it. So even a 4-year-old can make a difference."
Collins said it was spiritually moving for her to see the crosses all set up — and for her daughter to be part of the construction.
"When I put a shirt on the cross I said a prayer for that person and their family," she said. "It's just very touching and I hope people drive by and take the time to see this and think about gun violence in our community.”
The crosses and T-shirts were made by both youth and adults of the parish who wanted to help.
"I thought it was a beautiful idea and very moving," said Cindy Houghton of Westmont, an 18-year member of the church. "It's all going to be incorporated into our Easter vigil service."
On Easter Sunday, the crosses will be bare while the shirts are removed to be part of a special vigil, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the church, 275 S. Richmond Ave., Clarendon Hills. Easter worship services are at 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Sunday, with an egg hunt to take place at 10:45 a.m.