Vigil for crime victims set for April 26

Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 17, 2012, 5:41am

Local victims of violent crime will be remembered at a candlelight vigil as part of National Crime Victims Week

The Jefferson County Coalition for Victims of Crime will sponsor the 22nd Annual Crime Victims' Candlelight Vigil, at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 26, at the Jefferson County Courthouse Jury Impaneling Auditorium.

The Vigil is part of many local events commemorating National Crime Victims Week (April 22 � 28), which honors those who have been harmed by crime.

The Vigil includes music, poetry and a moving keynote tribute to Jefferson County crime victims and their families by Kathy Bell-Schexnaider of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Bell-Schexnaider lost her husband in an alcohol-related accident that occurred in her front yard when a drunk driver veered from the road and struck her husband as he mowed the grass. The accident was witnessed by their son.

Now, Bell-Schexnaider works with MADD to strengthen and ensure the enforcement of laws that prohibit intoxicated drivers from taking to the road.

Her work includes assisting victims and their families through the stressful experiences of recuperation and litigation. Bell-Schexnaider also helps promote alcohol- awareness programs that focus on safe driving and responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Master of Ceremonies for the Candlelight Vigil will be Jesse Doiron, a Victims' Rights Advocate, and a long-time member of the Coalition. Doiron is an instructor of English at Lamar University and a recipient of the Julie and Ben Rogers Community Service Award as well as a recipient of the Governor's Award for Restorative Justice.

In 1983, Doiron was the victim of attempted capital murder. Doiron's story has been recounted on the television program, "I Survived" on the A&E Biography Channel.

There are a number of other Lamar University participants in the program this year. Antoinette Mays, Special Events Coordinator for the LU Alumni Association and a fellow Julie and Ben Rogers Award recipient, will give the invocation and benediction at the event.

Mays is the sponsor of Bruised But Not Battered, an LU student organization for victims of domestic abuse. She is also an ordained minister and a Christian counselor. A former keynote speaker at the event, Mays also is a victim of crime.

Chris Vogt, instructor of English at LU, will perform at the piano before the event gets underway. This is his first year participating in the Vigil.

The Jefferson County Coalition for Victims of Crime is made up of local government, civic and state organizations as well as concerned individuals who work to provide victims and offenders with treatment, counseling, support and education.

"This year's theme � 'Extending the Vision Reaching Every Victim'' � pays tribute to crime victims, survivors, victim service providers, and justice professionals who, for many decades, have joined together in mutual support and advocacy to promote victims' rights and services," said Misty Craver, executive director of the Jefferson County Victims Assistance Center.

For more information on the activities or services of the various coalition members, call Craver at (409) 833-3377.

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