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Kanard's Comeback: Young victim of violence thriving with foundation's help

NEW ORLEANS - At Cascade Stables, it's more than a riding lesson. It's a therapy session for the young men of a Son of a Saint Foundation. Their lives have taken twists and turns some couldn't imagine, but they've found each other.

"We call each other brothers because no matter what we're going through, we always stick together and help each other," said Trey Hand.

All of the boys, between nine and 13 years old, are connected by one particular circumstance. All of them are fatherless.

"We act as their father, so anything a father would do for them, we do. We provide mental services to them, recreational services and give them different experiences," said Bivian "Sonny" Lee, the founder of Son of a Saint.

His mission is to enhance the lives of these young men through mentorship, education and recreation.

"Most of us only have moms, so he is kind of taking the place of our dads and brings us to do stuff. It's been fun getting to know these people that I never knew before," said Miles Stewart.

They certainly do have a special bond.

Last year, they watched a story unfold on television about a young boy who they believed needed their help. During his birthday party, 10-year-old Kanard Allen was shot in the leg and neck when bullets started flying. His 5-year-old cousin died in the high-profile shooting.

Trying to recover from an ordeal most children never face, the unthinkable happened again. A mass shooting on Mother's Day left 19 people injured at a second-line parade. The youngest victim that day was Kanard Allen. It was his third bullet in less than a year, all before his 11th birthday.

Violence had taken its toll. Lee immediately began thinking of how his foundation could help Kanard.

"We said, ‘Hey, we are going to reach out to him,' and all the kids were like, ‘yeah, yeah,'" said Lee.

Weeks after the Mother's Day shooting, Lee brought Kanard into his Son of a Saint program. Only six months in, Kanard is now flourishing. He's smiling again.

"I'm doing great, and my friends, they're fun," said Kanard.

Kanard is doing well in school, keeping up his grades and even joining band.

"He's smart. He's aware of his surroundings and very caring. For our community service projects, he's the first one in there," Lee said.

Through the program, his recreational activities include horseback riding, yoga and fishing. Kanard is also learning French. He'll be part of a small group with Son of a Saint to travel to Montreal next month.

"We had some great funding that came in from the area," Lee said. "They want to give these kids an opportunity. I want them to travel on an airplane for the first time, and that's why we're learning French. We'll be able to talk to people out there and eat different foods."

It will be Kanard's second trip with the group. During the summer, he went to Destin and touched beach sand for the first time. Through all of the activities, learning experiences and education, Kanard credits his new found friends for most of his growth.

"When something bad happens, we're all there for each other. We're like family," said Nathan Penn.

Kanard doesn't talk much about his past. He's now focused on his future.

"I'm getting better," he said.

Kanard is one of 32 young members of Son of a Saint. Boys enter the program between the ages of nine and 13, but they'll remain members of the group until they receive their college acceptance letter, Lee said.


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