A new South Bend foundation honoring the life of Chrisyah Stephens

NOW: A new South Bend foundation honoring the life of Chrisyah Stephens

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--A local foundation in South Bend, coming together to honor 7-year-old Chrisyah Stephens, who passed away on August 29. 2020 in an unexpected drive-by shooting on the 800 block of East Donald Street.

Yesterday, December 13, 2021, would've marked her 9th birthday. To honor her, Chrisyah’s mother Shanette Smiley created the “Forever 7 Foundation” to help gift doll houses for the first time to little girls in need ahead of Christmas. It's a special gift that her mother says Chrisyah loved, and was given on her last Christmas before she was killed.


“She loved to play with her Barbie dream house, she liked to do homework, she loved school, she loved to be around her parents,” Smiley said. 


The “Forever 7 Foundation’s” mission is to just bring a smile to these kids’ faces. With the help of several community sponsors, the group gifted 10 little girls Barbie dream houses and dolls. 7-year-old Ko’Mari Ward and her grandmother say the gesture is so much more than just a Christmas present.


“I'm happy and excited,” Ko’Mari said.


“For one, it has a huge impact. I’m so thankful for Chrisyah Stephen’s mother for her strength and courage. It's really fascinating to have someone share such a traumatic event and be so willing to share this day,” Ko’Mari’s grandmother Komonique Thomas said.

The foundation plans to continue this tradition every year for young kids.

Chrisyah was one of 14 kids under the age of 18 who died of gun violence last year. Two months after the tragedy, 18-year-old Jaheim Lamar Campbell was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder.

Prosecutors argued Campbell was allegedly targeting someone else who was believed to be at a house near Donald and High Street where Chrisyah was killed. However, the defense argued that he wasn’t the one responsible, and the real killer had already been arrested for a different crime and was found in possession of the weapon used in the shooting.


About a year later on August 26 of this year, a jury found Campbell not guilty, acquitting him on both charges. Records show Campbell is currently booked in the St. Joseph County Jail. He was arrested again at the end of November on charges unrelated to the Chrisyah Stephens case.

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