CLEVELAND -- Five “Hometown Heroes” were honored for service to their communities, including a mother who is turning around her grief to help comfort others. Her son’s killer has not been found, but she hopes, through her work, he will not be forgotten.
"We chose to turn our pain into purpose," said Sheila Halton.
Almost five years ago, Sheila Halton's son Stephen Halton Jr. was shot and killed while waiting for a bus on Lakeshore Boulevard in Cleveland. The 30-year old anesthesia tech was on his way to the Cleveland Clinic to assist with a liver transplant.
"When homicide happens in your family, it is such a hard thing to deal with, and nobody really understands it, except for somebody who's actually went through a homicide, dealt with somebody being taken away that they love, suddenly," Halton said.
Sheila Halton is one of five "Hometown Heroes" honored Friday night by the FBI Cleveland Citizens Academy Alumni Association. She said she struggled with grief, anger, pain and stress over the death of her son, until God filled her void. She created a program to help other grieving families; she named it VOID, Victims of Innocent Demise.
"When we talk about Stephen, our son, it helps us to heal as well because somebody actually wants to hear our story...you don't want them to be forgotten, so when I come across a family who's lost someone and they want to talk, I let them talk because it's healing for them and I know that because of experience," she said.
"We're a volunteer partner, non-profit organization, we partner with the FBI to do community service programs to enhance relationships between law enforcement, the FBI, children and adults and citizens in the community," said Richard Schwalberg, chairman of the FBI Cleveland Citizens Academy Alumni Association.
Other heroes include an Independence police officer who prevented a woman trying to jump from a bridge, a community leader improving Slavic Village and Ohio City Ambassadors who helped a woman escape a kidnapper.
"We have hope, no matter what, we still have hope," said Stephen’s father, Bishop Stephen Halton, Sr.
"Even while we're waiting for answers, we didn't allow this thing to consume us because if it consumed us, we wouldn't be able to help anybody," said his wife, Sheila.
The awards dinner was held at the Mayfield Sound Ridge Club in South Euclid. The FBI Memorial Star was given to the family of Laurie Fournier, a special agent who died of cancer, related to the 2001 recovery efforts of Flight 93 wreckage in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The featured speaker was a retired New York firefighter, who survived the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.