When Amy Raslevich read about 5-year-old Amy Hayes being struck by a stray bullet in Baltimore last week, she couldn’t stop thinking about the young girl walking up the street to the store, doll in hand, “feeling like an adult” one moment — and lying on the ground, helpless, the next.
A synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pa., where Raslevich lives, had been the site of a mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded six others, including four police officers, less than a month earlier.
Raslevich, a 47-year-old doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, is a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that lobbies for gun reform. But she wanted to do something special for the injured girl in Baltimore who shares her first name.
She loaded up her Amazon shopping cart with Christmas presents: a nursery set and doctor’s accessories for Amy’s baby doll, a bookmaking kit, a Minnie Mouse holiday plush toy and a My Fairy Garden she could plant in memory of her half-sister, Taylor Hayes, 7, who was killed by a stray bullet in Northwest Baltimore in July.
As the 5-year-old recovered from her wounds in the hospital Tuesday, more than a week after the shooting, the gifts already had begun to arrive at her great-grandmother Vivian Nealy’s Sandtown-Winchester home. Another well-wisher has offered a portrait of Taylor she hopes to turn into a mural.
“Not that anything I sent is going to solve the problem, but this girl has been through more in her life than most people will ever have to go through,” Raslevich said. “How does she wake up and ask what happened? How does she connect that with what happened to her sister? How does she, at 5, see her future?”
“All of it is around trying to give her hope,” she added. “I wanted her to see that she’s important, and I hope this isn’t her story. She has such value and worth and a future.”
Family members haven’t told Amy — Christmas is a month away, after all — but her great-grandmother can already hear her excited “ooooooo!” and see her eyes lighting up when she opens the presents.
She had wanted the Disney Doc McStuffins nursery set, in particular, when she saw it advertised on television, Nealy said.
“She’ll be thankful,” she said. “I know she’ll be thankful for everything she got.”
In a separate gesture, Theresa Reuter, an artist who lives in Northeast Baltimore, drew a pastel portrait of Taylor after her death this summer that she hopes eventually to turn into a mural for the family somewhere in Baltimore.
“People need to see her face and reflect on what’s going on in our city,” Reuter said.
After unsuccessful attempts this summer to reach Taylor’s mother, Shanika Robinson, to offer her the pastel portrait, Reuter has been in touch with Nealy, who is Amy’s maternal grandmother, in hopes she can pass it along. (The two girls share a father.)
“This is a marvelous little girl,” Reuter said. “She needs to be remembered.”