Ayanna and Louis Brown are again collecting backpacks and school supplies to give to kids in their Skyway neighborhood. The yearly collection and giveaway is in honor of their son Alajawan, who was 12 when he died.
It’s been five years since 12-year-old Alajawan Brown was fatally shot in the back by a gang member who mistook him for a rival.
For his parents, Ayanna and Louis Brown, the pain of losing their youngest child remains as raw now as when Alajawan was gunned down in April 2010 after stepping off a Metro bus in Skyway a couple of miles from home. His killer is serving a 50-year prison sentence.
“It’s been five years and it still hurts. It’s as fresh now as when it first happened,” Ayanna Brown said. “The only difference now is we know how to keep moving because it initially had us paralyzed.”
How to help
• Donations of backpacks will be accepted at the Renton Wal-Mart, 743 Rainier Ave. S., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Donations will also be accepted through Aug. 18 at all 47 Wendy’s restaurants in Western Washington.
• Ayanna and Louis Brown will host four backpack-stuffing work parties from noon to 4 p.m. on Aug. 14, 17, 18 and 24 in the administration building of King County Fire District 20, 12424 76th Ave. S. in Skyway.
• The backpacks will be given away Aug. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or until supplies run out, at Fire District 20.
Source: Alajawan Brown Foundation
A big part of their forward motion is tied to their yearly effort to collect and distribute backpacks and school supplies to children growing up in their working-class neighborhood, where many parents struggle to provide even the basics.
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“We’ve had parents crying, like literally crying, because they had absolutely no way to get anything for their kids,” she said. “Even though it’s not supplying every item on the school-supply list, it’s a start.”
Since 2012, the Browns — through the Alajawan Brown Foundation they set up to honor their son and his youthful desire to give back to his community — have given away 3,500 backpacks to school-age children.
While they continue to focus their giving on kids who attend Campbell Hill Elementary School and Dimmit Middle School, both in the Renton School District, “We don’t turn anyone away,” Brown said.
The backpack drive started the year Alajawan would’ve entered high school. This year, he would have graduated — a milestone his mother was determined to mark. Ayanna Brown, a longtime bus driver for the Tukwila School District, secretly arranged for her son to receive an honorary diploma from Foster High School.
Ayanna Brown, her husband and their elder son attended the graduation ceremony — and near the end, Louis Brown was called to the stage to accept the diploma on Alajawan’s behalf. He was also given a cap and turned his tassel along with the rest of the graduates.
“He was speechless and tearful, but grateful to do it,” Ayanna Brown said of her husband. “He got a standing ovation. He got his baby’s diploma and Daddy turned his tassel for Alajawan.”
The Browns will be at the Renton Wal-Mart, 743 Rainier Ave. S., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday with hopes of adding to the 600 backpacks they’ve collected so far this year.
Donations are also being accepted through Aug. 18 at all 47 Wendy’s restaurants in Western Washington — a corporate partnership made possible through Louis Brown’s relationship with the chain as the general manager of the Wendy’s restaurant in Bellevue.
“Louis is just such a good human being and a great guy. Everybody in the company just wants to help out,” said Brown’s boss, Matt Massart, who is district manager for five Eastside locations, as well as restaurants in Burien and Tukwila. “I’m just glad we can be a part of it. It’s one of those things you can do and know it’s going to the right place.”
Massart said fliers explaining the backpack drive and the tragic impetus behind it are distributed to all of the Wendy’s restaurants, with employees also sharing details of Alajawan’s story with customers. A donation box is set up at each location.
With restaurants from Bellingham to Lacey participating in the backpack drive, Massart said Wendy’s guests don’t seem to mind their donated supplies are meant for kids in the South Seattle area.
“I think it’s more for the greater good is the way they see it,” he said, noting last year the Wendy’s in Bellingham was one of the biggest contributors.
The Browns will host four backpack-stuffing work parties from 12 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14, 17, 18 and 24 in the administration building of King County Fire District 20, located at 12424 76th Ave. S. in Skyway.
They’ll be giving away the backpacks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or until supplies run out on Aug. 29, also at Fire District 20. Children must accompany their parents to receive the backpacks, which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to those in kindergarten through high school.