MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Denise Brown has something in common with all the parents whose children’s photos hang from her office wall.
“There’s no getting over this. Ever,” she said.
It was March 1, 2012, when Brown got the devastating news that her brother had died after a battle with cancer.
Her grief still fresh, her phone rang again just a few hours later. This time the person on the other end told her son had been shot.
“I hit the floor,” she said. “Two in one day. Hit the floor. Not even realizing that he was gone. Just the news saying he had been shot up.”
Her son, Roman Bradley, did not survive. His best friend, JaQuevin Myles, also died.
“He loved his friends, which was Roman and Trevin. They considered themselves brothers,” JaQuevin’s mom Jackie Hall said.
“They were best friends. They had so much fun together,” Brown added. “They died together. I don’t think if one would have lived without the other.”
Now these mothers share a mutual pain and a joint purpose.
Brown, Hall and another mother created the RJT Foundation in honor of their sons to help families coping with the loss of a loved one.
“I know mothers who literally die of broken hearts. I didn’t want that to be me,” Brown explained. “I want mothers to have a place where they can feel, ‘Hey, we can talk about this. We can journey through this together. We don’t have to let this beat us’.”
RJT is a mix of their son’s initials, and also their mission to “restore joy and trust.”
The organization provides resources for grief counseling, care packages to children and siblings of victims and financial assistance for funerals.
Through its Reading Warrior Program, the RJT Foundation has put countless books in the hands of kids impacted by violence; children like Roman’s daughter Royal and JaQuevin’s daughter JaDore.
“A lot of organizations focusing on the shootings and the killings, but they’re not focusing on the kids left behind. Denise is focused on that,” Hall said.
While the pain will never go away, Brown says it no longer consumes her.
Her focus now is helping others to write their own survival story.
“Somebody came knocking on my door one day and it was called violence,” Brown said. “And when somebody comes knocking at your door you open the door and you see what it’s about. So I found out what it’s about and I’m doing something about it. I’m giving my time. I’m sharing my story, I’m giving my energy to uplift somebody else so that they can be a survivor. Because I’m a survivor.”
Brown, Hall and the RJT Foundation are now preparing for their next big event, a book fair for kids early next year.
To find out how you can help, visit RJTFoundation.org.