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Personal Tragedy, Powerful Mission

Personal Tragedy, Powerful Mission

March 13, 2023 Posted in: Health & Wellness  3 minute read time


Helping others cope with loss and grief helps soften Tonya Lindsey’s pain a little bit.

Ezavion Lindsey was an admired 16-year-old. A proud mentor to his younger brother, he worked part-time at Krispy Kreme, excelled academically and was an avid basketball player aiming for the NBA. His mother, Tonya Lindsey, AAS, CPC, a medical coder at CHI Saint Joseph Health, was his biggest fan, cheering from the stands at every game. When Ezavion died in a sudden act of gun violence, her world stopped.

“The trauma I endured was gut-wrenching,” Lindsey said. “I want people to know when you pull these guns and take someone’s life, you are destroying families.”

Soon after her son’s death in 2013, Lindsey and eight mothers who also lost children to gun violence founded Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence, or SWAG. Their mission is to promote awareness, education and prevention of gun violence in our communities in efforts to save lives, and to provide support and resources to families impacted by gun violence.

“Creating my nonprofit gave me purpose and strength,” Lindsey said. “It’s all about saving lives.”

Creating Change Through Education

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 321 Americans are shot every day, affecting households across the country.

“There was no support for families who had experienced this type of tragedy,” Lindsey said. “We had to figure out how to provide that support.”

Explaining the financial benefits of gun safety would be an important part of recruiting citizens and responsible gun owners to participate in the effort.

“Gun violence creates a financial burden on communities,” Lindsey said. “After explaining this problem, people started inviting us into the community to educate different people in all walks of life. There’s a financial impact on everyone, no matter your income, faith or where you live.”

Programs such as STOP THE BLEED, offered through the UK Trauma Injury Prevention coordinator, partner with SWAG to teach life-saving trauma skills in areas where gun violence is prevalent.

Partnerships and Sisterhood for Healing

Additional resources to support SWAG families include:

  • Financial support for families with unexpected funeral costs or other expenses with funds raised from community and private donations
  • Mentoring programs that partner with SWAG to provide emotional and community support to siblings and children who have lost someone to gun violence
  • A SWAG Resource Program with resources for mental health support and court and law enforcement advocates
  • SWAG Socials, which offer monthly get-togethers for members to celebrate their loved ones and share experiences

His Legacy Lives On

For Lindsey and her family, Ezavion’s legacy is at the center of her advocacy work, including the annual Ezavion Lindsey Memorial Scholarship Fund. In memory of her son, who dreamed of going to college and being drafted into the NBA, the fund helps seniors at Tates Creek High School with their college tuition.

“His whole family advocates to keep Ezavion’s legacy alive,” Lindsey said. “I was most proud that he stayed focused and lived every day with purpose.”

For families in need of support or who are interested in donating to SWAG or the Ezavion Lindsey Memorial Scholarship Fund, contact Tonya Lindsey at 859.382.0053 or [email protected].

A version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 print edition of Spirit of Health.

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