CEDAR RAPIDS — After losing her son in a fatal shooting in 2016, Nina Woods said she couldn’t have made it through the last two years without the victim advocates from the Horizons Survivors’ Program.
“I don’t think I would be here without them,” said Woods, a Cedar Rapids resident. “I would be lost. They helped me with everything and have supported me from the beginning.”
Woods said she relies on the Horizons Survivors’ support group, which meets once a month, to help her deal with her grief since the death of her son, Brandon Johnson, 21, who was shot March 19, 2016. Other members of the group have also lost someone to violent crimes, so it’s a “safe place” because they understand what she is going through, she said.
Woods said she didn’t know how to maneuver through the court system and wouldn’t on her own understand why it takes so long for cases, like in her son’s death, to go to trial.
The program, which started in 1991, addresses the needs of violent crime victims and the families and friends of homicide and vehicular homicide victims like Woods and many others in 14 Iowa counties.
The program will have its third annual Wine Gala and Auction on Friday to support the immediate and long-term needs of those victims and their families.
Penny Galvin, community-based program coordinator and specialist with the survivors’ program, said the program receives limited funding each year from a matching federal grant and the organization must raise $68,500. The program relies on the fundraiser and in-kind donations throughout the year.
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Advocates with the program provide emergency crisis support; act as liaisons between the victims’ families and law enforcement and the county attorney’s offices; support the families throughout trials and sentencing processes; assist in filing for financial compensation for crime-related expenses; and make referrals to other agencies for needed services.
The gala this year has several businesses and individuals who sponsor tables and provide auction items for the event, Galvin said.
Anastasia Basquin, planning committee member and community liaison with the Linn County Attorney’s Office, said over $11,000 worth of items have been donated for the event. The items up for auction include football and baseball tickets, dinner gift cards, gym memberships, tandem sky diving, spa services, cereal for a year, artwork and hotel stays.
The event begins with a social hour with wine to purchase and free hors devours, then victims’ family members will share stories about their loved ones. Steve Donald, father of Lynnsey Donald, 29, who was killed in the parking lot of the Marion Hy-Vee in 2015, will be the main speaker. The live auction will follow the speakers.
Those without tickets can still attend and make a goodwill offering at the door, Galvin said. If a business or other organization is interested in being a table sponsor, they should call Galvin this week.
If You Go
• What: Third annual Wine Gala and Auction to benefit the Horizons Survivors’ Program
• When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday
• Where: National Czech and Slovak Museum, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids
• Cost: Goodwill donation at the door
• Info: horizonsfamily.org
l Comments: (319) 398-8318; firstname.lastname@example.org