As Ian Jaffier looked around the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Allston Thursday morning, he saw a host of scholars, politicians, and community leaders. But for him, there was one person missing: his daughter, Dawnn Jaffier, who was tragically killed in Dorchester two years ago.
“I wish she was here,” he said. “The person that I’m looking for is not here.”
The nearly 100 community members came together Thursday —
Jaffier was shot and killed in gang crossfire by a stray bullet on the morning of August 23, 2014, just before she was going to participate in a parade to celebrate J’ouvert, a Caribbean street party.
Prosecutors believe Wesson Colas raised his gun at rival gang member Keith Williams, who fired back four or five times, striking Jaffier, an innocent bystander.
Both men were charged with murder and are awaiting trial. The third person, Jordan Reed, was charged with allegedly helping Williams hide the murder weapon.
Three community leaders — all involved in service-based nonprofits throughout the city — received the Light of Dawnn awards Thursday, and three high school seniors received $5,000 each in the first-ever Light of Dawnn college scholarships.
“If she was here, I’m sure that she would be able to get along with everyone here, and be proud with everyone here,” Ian Jaffier said. “I’m really honored that we can carry on my daughter’s legacy in a really positive manner.”
Latiana Appleberry, who provides support for girls who have been sexually exploited, Kendall Bruce, who helps victims of violence and their family in their recovery at Boston Medical Center, and Tim Bulla, who helped hundreds of people out of homelessness, all received Light of Dawnn Awards and $5,000 grants.
“I feel really honored and very special to receive an award in her recognition,” Appleberry said. “I do this work not because I want to be recognized, but it does feel really nice to be recognized.”
Three local seniors who have experienced hardship and are passionate about community service, Rachel Kalombo, Shaina Omoroghomwan, and Kerimal Guerrero, each received the $5,000 scholarship.
State Representative Kevin Honan said he had known Dawnn since she was a young girl through the West End House, where she went on to work as a dance instructor, coach, and mentor.
“It was a complete tragedy to lose such a wonderful young person like her. ... Her whole life was about giving back to the community,” Honan said. “To remember her in this way is very fitting.”
During the awards ceremony, the main room in the West End House featured large handmade paintings and a three-panel mural of Dawnn’s face that showed her bright smile and energy.
As the morning sun streamed through the windows, Ian Jaffier noticed that the “light of Dawnn” had brightened up the room.
“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It’s very difficult to deal with, but I’m learning to have to live with it.”