By MARK GUARINO | Reuters
NEW ORLEANS | Wed May 29, 2013 2:18pm EDT
(Reuters) – A 10-year-old boy who was wounded by gunfire at a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans, the second time in a year he has been shot, is celebrating his 11th birthday in style this week with a limousine ride and a pool party courtesy of a luxury hotel.
Ka'Nard Allen was one of 20 people hit by bullets during the shooting on May 12, police said. The impact of gun violence on the boy, who was also shot and wounded at his 10th birthday party, has prompted many in New Orleans to respond with help.
"We really believe this young man deserved to have a great birthday," said Tod Chambers, general manager at The Roosevelt Hotel, a historic luxury hotel on the edge of the French Quarter, which is donating a night's stay to Ka'Nard's family.
"Obviously, we can't change what happened to this poor young man, but at least we can make his birthday a positive experience," Chambers said.
Last year, Ka'Nard was shot in the neck at his birthday party in a family member's backyard, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. According to the newspaper, his 5-year-old cousin was killed at the party, along with Shawanna Pierce, 33. Two others were wounded.
Then in October, the boy's father, 33-year-old Bernard Washington, was fatally stabbed, police said. His stepmother, Robin Washington, was charged with manslaughter and is awaiting trial.
On May 12, Ka'Nard and a 10-year-old girl were both grazed with bullets at the community parade. Neither Ka'Nard nor his mother, Tynia Allen, could be reached for comment.
After hearing that Ka'Nard wished to spend his birthday, which is Wednesday, swimming at a hotel pool, Chambers said he arranged to have the boy, his mother, sister and a friend enjoy a complimentary overnight stay in a suite, complete with a limo ride, their own poolside cabana, dinner, ice cream and cake.
Chambers would not say which day the party will take place, citing confidentiality.
In the days after the Mother's Day shooting, two brothers, ages 19 and 24, were arrested and charged with 20 counts of attempted second-degree murder. Police said both are gang members.
Violent crime in New Orleans ranks above the national average in U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation surveys and a 2010 poll found crime to be city residents' greatest concern.
In February, four people were wounded in a shooting outside a nightclub in the city's French Quarter as crowds gathered for Mardi Gras celebrations.
Allowing Ka'Nard to enjoy, not fear, his birthday is essential for providing a sense of normalcy, said Charles Figley, director of the Tulane Traumatology Institute in New Orleans.
"It will enable him to think of other things, to experience his childhood and the things he loves," Figley said.