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Angel Tree branching out to new location

11/14/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

This year’s Angel Tree Ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Akron-Summit County Main Library Auditorium, 60 S. High St.
Stephanie Karamas, of Akron, is shown hanging an ornament for her brother, Louis Karamas Jr., at last year’s ceremony. Louis Karamas, 25, of West Akron, died Nov. 7, 2004. He was “kidnapped [carjacking] and taken to Cleveland, shot eight times — all for the taking of the rims from his car,” said Stephanie Karamas last year. Louis Karamas was a 1998 graduate of Coventry High School.
Photos: Ken Crisafi
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Victim Assistance Program’s (VAP) annual remembrance of homicide victims is moving to a new home.

The Angel Tree Ceremony will take place Dec. 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Library Auditorium, 60 S. High St.

Ashley Nickelsen, VAP’s office manager and organizer of this year’s event, said the event previously took place at the Ocasek Building, but it was getting too tight.

“We’ve just seen over the years that there have been unfortunately a growing number of people to attend the ceremony, and it’s gotten a little crowded,” she said.

This is the 19th year for the event, a free and open to the public ceremony at which the names of more than 800 Summit County homicide victims are read and their family members and loved ones can place an angel ornament on a Christmas tree in remembrance.

VAP invites families whose addresses they have on file from over the years, Nickelsen said.

Most years, about 30 new names are read. But this year, VAP officials worked to find additional victims to be represented, and there are about 100 new names, Nickelsen said.

VAP staff members make the angel ornaments and handwrite the victim’s name on each one. They are picked up by family members when they arrive, and when the loved one’s name is read, they place the ornament on the tree.

The tree will remain up through the Christmas season at the library in the area behind the security desk, called the Garden Trio Corridor.

Nickelsen said at the end of the season, the ornaments are packed away and stored to be used again the following year.

In addition, the ceremony and display includes the Wall of Remembrance, which features photos of those who were victims of homicide. The photos are also kept and used year after year, Nickelsen said. Those who are new to attending the ceremony are welcome to bring a photo for inclusion on the wall, which will also be up through the holidays at the Main Library.

This year, the ceremony also will feature remarks from Bob Fiatal, Ohio’s assistant attorney general and director of the Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. The program is being piloted in Akron to attempt to reduce gun violence.

Nickelsen said the ceremony and display help families that have lost someone to homicide.

“It’s really a great way for us to help them know their loved one hasn’t been forgotten,” she said. “It helps remind them that we are still here and we still remember their loved one even as they are still struggling through this.”

For more information, call VAP at 330-376-0040.

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