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`to find a tomorrow' - Knoxville parents form network to help crime victims

August 21, 1997

`to find a tomorrow'

Knoxville parents form network to help crime victims

By Teri Johnson

Staff Writer

Losing a loved one always is difficult, but losing that person at the hands of a murderer or drunken driver is inconceivable.

A network founded by Jerry and Yong Pilkington of Knoxville aims to help crime victims see through their despair.

The Hope Foundation Associates Inc. offers services to family members and friends of persons killed by homicide or by someone driving while intoxicated.

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The commemoration ceremony for the network took place in the Pilkingtons' home on June 17, the first anniversary of their son's murder.

Adrian Pilkington was 20 when he was stabbed and thrown off a bridge.

"When I first heard, I was numb. I couldn't say or hear anything," Yong Pilkington says.

Adrian Pilkington had planned to join the Army in August 1996, and he was an avid sports fan who loved the flag and his country, Jerry Pilkington says.

"He was ready to give his life and die for it, but he didn't have the chance," he says.

The Pilkingtons searched for help and understanding, but they couldn't find any Christian organizations with experience in dealing with crime victims. They turned to government agencies and took part in available programs, but they found that hope wasn't part of the process.

Jerry Pilkington stresses that the network isn't a memorial set up on behalf of their son - it's a mission that resulted from his murder.

"The biggest problem is that there is an enormous opportunity for the criminal to get assistance, but none for the victim. We're extremely angry at some of the laws and how callous the criminal justice system is," Jerry Pilkington says.

The Pilkingtons, who have another son, Trinity, 22, say they want to turn that aggression into something positive to help others.

Just having someone to talk to can make a difference, says Sherry Baker, a network member who lives in Comus, Md., in Montgomery County.

She says she and her husband, Bill, went through a nightmare after their 15-year-old son, William Russell Baker III, was fatally shot by a childhood friend in December 1991.

"Our dealings with the criminal justice system compounded losing our son," Sherry Baker says.

At first she had some anxieties about rehashing things about her son, but it was therapeutic to talk about it, she says.

Baker, who has two other children, says her family received a great deal of support from friends and family members, but she knows not everyone is that fortunate.

"We would like to help others in any way possible," Sherry Baker says.

The group will meet one Friday a month at Fort Detrick Chapel in Frederick, Md. The two-hour meetings will be led by a counselor and will include a group counseling session, Jerry Pilkington says. If needed, one-on-one counseling will be set up.

The meeting will close with a prayer.

"We believe in faith as part of the healing process," Jerry Pilkington says.

Writing is another part of that process for Yong Pilkington, who is working on a book expressing her feelings about coping with the loss of a child.

She began her journal hours after she learned of her son's murder, writing down the things she wished she had had the chance to say.

"At 3 a.m., I wrote my love letter to him," she says.

The book is written in Korean, her native language. It will be translated into English. Proceeds from the Korean edition will go to the Wheat Mission for the handicapped, and the English version will benefit The Hope Foundation.

Anyone can join the nonprofit network. No one who has had a death in the family will be excluded, Jerry Pilkington says.

The Pilkingtons hope to create other chapters, and their vision is to see The Hope Foundation develop nationally.

They know they can't stop crime from happening, but they can provide advocacy support, Jerry Pilkington says.

"We want to help them find hope, to find a tomorrow," he says.

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