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READ THE STORIES BEHIND THEIR MESSAGES

Ann Marie D’Aliso and her husband, Pat, a successful high school football coach and health teacher, lost their son, Patrick, to suicide at 16 years of age. How did they not see that their son was suffering from undiagnosed depression? Why did his friends ignore the warning "signs? By sharing their story, they hope that other lives may be saved.

Randi Kelder lost her 24-year-old brother, Ryan, to a progressive and deadly drug addiction. Although they grew up in a stable, two-parent family, Randi and her brother began to experiment with alcohol and marijuana in their teenage years. During college, their addiction developed into prescription drug abuse that ended tragically in a heroin overdose, claiming Ryan’s life in 2015. Following Ryan’s death, Randi and her parents started an organization, Raising Your Awareness about Narcotics (R.Y.A.N), to bring attention to the growing epidemic of opioid addiction. Randi attended her first Breaking the Cycle assembly in 2016, which helped her realize that she needed to forgive herself and Ryan in order to move on in her life. She works and speaks passionately to prevent others from suffering the pain her family has endured.

Pat & Ann Marie D'Aliso

Hashim Garrett

Randi Kelder

Hashim Garrett grew up in Brooklyn, NY, raised by a single mom who was in an abusive relationship. As a result, he changed from a smart, articulate kid into an angry, gun-toting gang member. When he was 15 years old, a gang-related shooting left him nearly dead, and paralyzed from the waist down. Following the shooting, Hashim was consumed with hatred and immediately began planning for revenge. During his recovery, however, he realized that only way that he could become free and move on in life was through forgiving his perpetrator. After attending Rutgers University, he taught the Harvard Violence Prevention curriculum. In 2001, Hashim founded his own consulting company, “Wisdom and Understanding,” and became a motivational speaker. He later joined Breaking the Cycle and now speaks regularly in schools, sharing his story of non-violent conflict resolution through forgiveness . Hashim and his wife, Mia, live with their two children in New Jersey.

Patti Ann McDonald, together with her son Conor , tell the story of their late husband and father NYPD Det. Steven McDonald , who stopped to question three youths in Central Park in 1986. He was shot and paralyzed from the neck down. Steven had been married less than a year, and Patti Ann was two months pregnant with their son Conor. Rather than letting bitterness and hatred consume him, Steven chose to share his story of forgiveness through speaking at assemblies in schools all over the tri-state area. Along with author Johann Christoph Arnold, he visited hundreds of schools and spoke to thousands of students. Aside from recounting the harrowing events of the day that changed his life, McDonald focused on his long road to inner and outer recovery – a remarkable journey through anguish and anger to peace that began with a decision to forgive his attacker. He told audiences why he felt that “the only thing worse than a bullet in my spine would have been revenge.” In December of 2003, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged his extraordinary contribution to the community with a surprise double promotion to Detective first grade. Detective McDonald passed away on January 10, 2017.

Growing up in the most violent and poverty-stricken town in Long Island, survival of the fittest was a harsh daily reality for Sergio Argueta. He joined a street gang at an early age, attracted by the illusion of protection and support. After several friends were killed within a year and another received a 12 year prison sentence, Sergio realized he would soon be either dead or behind bars if he didn’t leave the gang. Hearing a mother weeping, “ Why my child?” at a friend’s funeral broke his heart, and Sergio realized something had to change. He founded S.T.R.O.N.G (Struggling To Reunite Our New Generation), a youth-driven, multi-ethnic organization in Long Island to counteract gang violence. He has served as Director of the Baccalaureate Social Work Program at Adelphi University, a criminal justice professor at Nassau Community College, and a gang specialist for the Nassau County Youth Board. Currently, in addition to his work as Uniondale High School Attendance Coordinator, Sergio is an adjunct professor in the Schools of Social Work at Adelphi University and Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He and his wife are the proud parents of two daughters.

Sergio Argueta

Patti Ann McDonald and Sgt. Conor McDonald

Kareem was born on May 21, 1982 and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He is the youngest of three brothers, raised by two Christian parents. He graduated from Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn in June of 2000. After graduating from high school, he attended college in Orangeburg, SC. At college he started in the fast lane: partying, women, drugs, alcohol. On the way home for a Christmas Break, he shared a blunt with a fellow traveler, a questionable character. Several days later he came down with flu-like symptoms and was diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis. Kareem survived, one of the one percent, but lost his hands. After his recovery, Kareem had two major goals, which were to write his autobiography, now accomplished; and to continue his college career, which he is now doing. He has a bright outlook for his future.

Mike O’Shea grew up on the streets of Queens, NY, heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. He recovered through the intervention of someone who believed in him, and devoted his life to helping youth in trouble. Now sober for over 3 decades, Mike is a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor. He volunteers at local jails and detox programs and gives hope to others struggling through the hells of addiction. Mike has been married for 33 years and is proud of his triplet daughters and two granddaughters.

Charles Williams grew up on Long Island with his mother who was a raging alcoholic and consumed by the fleeting relief she found in her addiction. Charles hated his mother for this, and felt that she did not love him or care about him as a son. On the surface, however, he had a successful life; he became a housing cop in the Bronx, married, and had three daughters. Later, he served as Chief of Police in Cornwall on Hudson. Inside him, however, the cancer of bitterness and hatred to his mother was destroying him. Attending a Breaking the Cycle event in 2002 as a dignitary, he realized that he had to forgive his mother. When he did he said it felt like “a backpack falling off.” Now, as a speaker for Breaking the Cycle, Charles is an advocate for forgiveness, both on a personal and a professional level. He is currently retired from active law enforcement and works for a startup tech company.

Charles Williams

Kareem Maxwell

Michael O'Shea

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