Philadelphia pastor brightening spirits for families, children impacted by violence

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A young boy shot in the head while walking home from school was among the families invited to a special "Christmas to Remember" event in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on Thursday night.

Semaj O'Branty was shot in the head in Philadelphia's Frankford section while walking home last November. A year after the tragic incident, he's opening up Christmas gifts on his own.

His mother, Anita Williams, was nearly brought to tears as he opened gift after gift.

"I thank everyone so much! We're so excited. So excited!" she said.

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Semaj continues to recover. Back in April, he could only say a few words, but now, after some rehabilitation, he is able to carry on full sentences, according to Reverend G. Lamar Stewart with Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, who put on the event at Houlihan's on Thursday night.

"As faith leaders, we're calling folks to put down the guns and say that family is what's important right now," said Stewart.

Reverend Stewart said he invited three other families, including the family of Zamar Jones, who was gunned down while playing on his West Philadelphia porch this summer.

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To any family who has been impacted by gun violence anywhere, Stewart says you don't have to carry the pain alone.

"We believe that there's hope in our creator and our God. This is a time for people to really draw in on their faith, but also to come closer together as a family, as a community," he said.

Anita Williams says it truly was their faith in God that pulled them through and kept her son alive.

"I know we have to pray. Pray everybody's family stays together, to let him know everything is going to be OK," she said.
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