Mary Nelson celebrates 7 - with a surprize too

Annual South Side Youth Day Barbecue draws crowd plus Regis and Kelly's attention:

Seven years ago Mary Nelson had a tragedy in her family. Her nephew, Darryl Patterson was shot and killed. It was the kind of violent death that leaves a family with feelings of remorse, anger and pain that last a long time.

Mary Nelson experienced all those feelings, but gained an insight into life that inspired her to make a very important decision. The incidence of violent deaths among the youth had to be stopped. She decided to dedicate her life to doing things to encourage school children to stay in school and become interested in pursuing higher education. She would begin by giving away books and backpacks to neighborhood school children. Encouraging kids to stay in school and giving them the books and a carrier will keep them away from the streets and ultimately help to stop violence. That was her idea, which resulted in the creation of the annual backpack and book giveaway event. Now seven years later, it has emerged as one of the most significant annual gathering of people on the south side of Syracuse; has changed her life and has made a huge impact on the community.

Saturday Aug. 9 was the seventh annual giveaway. A daylong event, it was attended by huge crowds of parents and kids estimated to be around 8000. What began as a neighborhood event has now become a citywide affair that draws parents and kids from all parts of Syracuse. Theresa Dumas lives off Butternut Street on the north side. She has participated in previous events as a volunteer. This year she decided to check it out as one of the crowd.

Accompanied by two of her neighbor's children, she arrived around noon and stayed until it closed. Describing herself as a Syracuse native, she lauded Nelson for taking the initiative to create something that has become huge in the community.

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