INDIANAPOLIS — DeAndra Dycus is preparing to celebrate her son, DeAndre’s, 21st birthday.
“I’m so excited and so grateful that Dre is so close to his 21st birthday,” she said, “but at the same time, I wish he was a sophomore, junior in college. I wish he had a girlfriend. I wish he was doing all the things that he and I talked about over seven years ago before this happened.”
Seven years ago, their lives changed when DeAndre was shot at a birthday party. A stray bullet entered the home on Indy’s northwest side, hitting him in the back of the head.
Today, he’s paralyzed and unable to speak. Meanwhile, the shooter has never been caught.
“It’s been seven and a half years for Dre, it feels like yesterday,” she said. “So seven years means nothing as it pertains to my emotional journey and that of my family.”
Shortly after the shooting, Dycus started Purpose 4 My Pain, a non-profit dedicated to curbing gun violence in the community. FOX59 has highlighted Dycus, her son and their journey several times throughout the years.
Sunday marks the seventh annual Pray 4 Dre/Play 4 Dre event. This year marks a huge significance as it returns for the first time, in-person, since the pandemic and is a celebration of DeAndre’s 21st birthday.
This year’s event includes a variety of panels and speakers, along with a special needs fashion show and basketball competition. Discussion topics include mental health, gun safety, de-escalation, living with grief and survival and the impact on families, siblings and loved ones.
It also involves partnerships among several organizations, including Moms Demand Action, CHEA Clothing LLC, Mass Design Firm, Everytown For Gun Safety and Him By Her Collegiate School of Arts inside Forest Manor Middle School.
Another new element includes collecting donations for the Gun Violence Memorial Project. Families impacted by gun violence can bring personal items, like baby shoes or graduation tassels, to honor loved ones lost. Those donations will go on to be part of the national memorial in Washington, D.C. Families wishing to be involved must RSVP, at the provided link above, to participate.
“We’re showing the world that our loved one is more than just a number. They’re more than just a case. They’re more than just a file on a detective’s desk. They’re more than just something that they label as a cold case,” Dycus said.
Even though DeAndre is still alive today, Dycus says so is the pain that came with this tragedy. Her hope, she says, is to help other families know they’re not alone in their grief or healing.
“Some places in your heart may be healed, but the totality of the situation, I believe in my heart, it never goes away,” she said. “I want these families to share what it looks like to attend therapists, to be a part of support groups, to be that fence for their other family members.”
The event is free to attend, but donations are also accepted. There’s also vendor space available for a $50 fee.