VTech Shooting: 5 Years Later, Victim’s Parents Find Healing in Serving Community

On April 15, 2012, the Erin Peterson Fund held its 5th Annual Erin Peterson Gospel Celebration of Life in honor of slain student Erin Nicole Peterson.   Just five years ago […]

On April 15, 2012, the Erin Peterson Fund held its 5th Annual Erin Peterson Gospel Celebration of Life in honor of slain student Erin Nicole Peterson.   Just five years ago today, this 18-year-old freshman and DMV-area native, along with 32 others, became a victim of the deadliest school shooting in American history at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.   But Erin’s parents, Grafton and Celeste Peterson  have turned this unspeakable tragedy into a testimony through the Erin Peterson Fund.

Established just one month after Erin’s passing,  the Petersons have now given away 41 scholarships to 31 students attending college, and are on track to  give away over $100,000 in scholarships this year alone.  But beyond being monetary blessings to students, Mrs. Peterson dedicates her time to her daughter’s  alma mater, Fairfax County’s Westfield High School and its program for at-risk young men, Leadership for Tomorrow.  Through the Fund, Mrs. Peterson provides not only financial support for field trips and new experiences for the young men in the program, but she also personally serves as a source of emotional support and encouragement to the young men.   During yesterday’s Gospel Celebration of Life, many of the 32 young men in the program spoke individually about how much Mrs. Peterson’s personal role in their lives has transformed them.  Beyond turning around their attendance and grades and striving to achieve higher goals because of her, two of the young men shared that she has been like a mother to them.

And while there were tears, it was truly a celebration of not only Erin’s life, but also her legacy of giving and mentoring others and most of all the healing power of God’s love.  The Petersons have experienced an unfathomable heart ache, but through their faith in Christ, they are living examples of Erin’s favorite scripture, Philippians 4:13, “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ that strengthens me.” They have turned crying into celebration and tragedy into triumph; they have taken what the Devil meant for evil and have used it for the good, glory and edification of God and His people, all through Christ who has given them the strength.

It was an honor to serve as the Mistress of Ceremonies for this awesome event, and we truly celebrated the life and legacy of Erin Nicole Peterson.  She will never be forgotten and neither will the testimony of her parents.  God is truly able!

To donate to the Erin Peterson Fund tax-free, visit http://www.erinpetersonfund.org

Check out the pics from the event below and view a PDF of the program, here.

The beautiful Mrs. Celeste Peterson in the audience at the Gospel Celebration of Life

photo credit: B. Denise Hawkins, Washington Post

DC District Diva, Mistress of Ceremonies

Mimer Jayla Tibbs, a member of Mount Olive Baptist Church’s Unspoken Praise Mimers

Photo Credit: Boyd Bryant

MOBC’s Unspoken Praise Mimers joined MOBC’s More and More Praise Liturgical Dancers

Photo Credit: Boyd Bryant

Close Peterson Family Friend and Co-worker Anna Moore gave an emotional rendition of “Open Up My Heart” by Yolanda Adams

Photo Credit: Boyd Bryant

The Petersons’ niece and a crucial member of the Erin Peterson Fund was unable to attend the celebration but Skyped in a special message for her aunt and uncle

Photo Credit: Boyd Bryant

The Youth for Tomorrow (Today) Choir of First Baptist Church of Manassas tore the house down!

Photo Credit: Boyd Bryant

The MOBC Male Choir brought the soul, as usual!

Photo Credit: Boyd Bryant

THESE Phenomenal young men of Radical Praise Mime Group — I want to take my shoe off and throw it across these here innernets. They were AMAZING! Such a blessing.

The young men of Leadership for Tomorrow each spoke about what Mrs. Peterson’s involvement in their lives mean to them (pictured 2nd right of center). Later, they were joined by Mount Olive Baptist Church pastor, Eugene Johnson (center) joined them and gave his remarks.

Photo Credit: Rubin Cuffee


DC District Diva with one of the Team Erin Program Coordinators, Crystal Arful-Addoh

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About DCDistrictDiva

The District Diva is an award-winning spiritual life blogger.