NORFOLK, Va. - Since Memorial Day weekend, more than two dozen children and teens have been shot or even killed by gunfire in Hampton Roads.
"It breaks your heart when these kids come in," said Dr. Ann Kuh, medical director of the trauma center at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters.
On a Friday afternoon going into the Fourth of July weekend, bullets rang out on Madison Avenue in Norfolk, ones that struck four children ages 6 to 16.
"It is a child in the playground, in the car, in their home or struck by random stray bullets, even instances of a child getting hold of a gun," Kuhn said.
Kuhn calls what is happening this summer an epidemic.
"We have seen a drastic increase in numbers," Kuhn said. "Last year we had 38 gunshot victims, up from the previous year of 21, and this year we are on track to surpass that. We currently have 23 so far, and it's only July."
Hope and help for these children, teens and their families is on the horizon, though.
In May 2019, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services awarded the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Foundation a grant to implement Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs in select Virginia hospitals to help survivors of violence and to help prevent more violence from occurring.
CHKD’s trauma program received grant funding in June 2021 to develop a program in our region to help these children, their families and the communities where they live.
"There will be a social worker to go into households and identify needs, whether it be food, employment, medical care," Kuhn said. "Anything to help the families get on their feet."
The ultimate goal is to break the cycle of violence and reduce re-injury, strengthen neighborhoods and help what CHKD calls second victims: Family, friends, neighbors and other witnesses to the violence.
The program will start this fall.