St. Frances Peace Camp hosts Halloween party with toy gun exchange aiming to decrease violence

Need toys donated for exchange
Posted at 3:05 PM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 16:59:54-04

Baltimore Police Detective Donny Moses explains it this way, "from age 1 or two, we were either good guys, or bad guys or cowboys and Indians... that's when that perception of I'm going to shoot them, bang! Bang! Pow! That's when that really starts out."

That's the mindset Saint Frances Academy is working to change.

During their annual Halloween party, there will be a toy gun exchange where anyone can donate toy guns and kids 12 and under will get a toy in return.

The toys they've collected so far to give out are soccer balls, glow bracelets, painting and coloring sets, and more. The University of Maryland is donating 15 basketballs as well.

"To re-imagine childhood, think of new ways to play, creative ways to play, without being violent," Nawal Rajeh said.

All of the donated guns will be turned into a mosaic. "It's like in the bible, turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks," Ralph Moore, Jr. said.

Moore Jr. and Rajeh created the Halloween party ten years ago, and give back to the community each holiday. Last year, they worked with MedStar to donate blood.

"We're going to have face painting, we're going to have pumpkin painting, lots of refreshments, we're going to have scary stories being read in a big tent," Moore Jr. said. 

He has his own scary stories.

He was a teenager, growing up in Freddie Gray's neighborhood, "there was a fella across the street from me who was shot and killed by his brother, and then dragged into the house."

Moore Jr. saw another murder in the street, in another Baltimore neighborhood, where the man laid lifeless.

Then years later, when he was married with a baby just a few months old, he heard his neighbor shot and killed in the middle of the night.

"That's the kind of thing that you don't want your children to see, you don't want them to duck underneath cars and run," Moore Jr. said these acts of violence changed him. 

"They stick with you," he said about the gruesome scenes.

Moore Jr. believes if the toy guns can be taken out of a child's life, the kid is less likely to use a firearm as a weapon in a crime later in life.

"We can't be everywhere during every instance, but small efforts like that are what promote great change," Detective Moses said.

Detective Moses said he applauds groups like the one with St. Frances, saying it helps make their job as a police officer easier.

Often toy guns are painted over, or changed to look more realistic, making it easier to commit crime and create concern for a police officer.

"We're trying to make a statement in opposition of the violence, to the gun violence in particular," Moore Jr. said.

But they need your help!

So far, there is only a handful of toys for the group to give out. The community that comes to this Halloween party is low income, and working class, according to Moore Jr., and each year for the past 7 years, about 1,000 kids come to trick-or-treat.

They are looking for any donations for peaceful toys, jump ropes, sports equipment, games, activity books, etc. Saint Frances is open Saturday starting at 11 a.m. to accept donations. The Halloween party is 5-8 p.m. at the Community Center at 501 E. Chase Street in Baltimore.

The group that puts on this event also hosts the Peace Camp, that is "a six-week summer camp for 32 third, fourth, and fifth graders. The focus of the camp is the teaching of anger management as an alternative to violent responses popularized in the movies, hand-held video games, and television."