AUBURN GRESHAM — A nonprofit organization is partnering with Father Michael Pfleger, violence prevention programs and local leaders on a state law that would immediately cover funeral and burial expenses for low-income families who have lost children to gun violence.
Strength to Love Foundation, an organization focused on fighting gun violence, joined local leaders Monday at St. Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Pl., to announce the Mychal Moultry Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act. Sen. Jacqueline Collins (16th District) introduced the bill earlier this month.
If passed, the law will allow the state to pay up to $10,000 to funeral and burial service providers to help families of young murder victims if their income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The law is named for Mychal Moultry Jr., a 4-year-old boy who was shot and killed in a Woodlawn home while getting his hair braided last year.
The state’s Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act already reimburses families of murder victims for funeral expenses. But the process of completing the paperwork and processing payment can take many months, or even years, said Dave Nayak, founder of Strength to Love Foundation. Supporters say the Mychal Moultry Jr. law will fast track financial support for grieving families when they need it most and prevent them from taking on debt.
Angela Gregg, Mychal’s mom, said the family paid $13,000 for her son’s funeral. The hefty price led the family to cremate their child, even though she would have preferred to bury him.
Gregg said she’s applied for reimbursement through the state’s compensation act, but she’s still waiting.
“No parent should have to be forced to choose to cremate their child when they want to bury them because they don’t have the funds at the time of service,” Nayak said. “The Mychal Moultry Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act will help families provide those funds if they need to bury their child in a respectable, becoming way that they see fit.”
“While we work to reduce and prevent the crime that is running rampant in our state, I intend to support the families navigating the tremendous pain of losing a child,” Collins said.
According to statistics shared by the foundation, 45 children 17 and younger were fatally shot in 2021.
At least five children have been killed in 2022, including Melissa Ortega, an 8-year-old girl killed in Little Village while walking with her mother, and Caleb Westbrooks, a 15-year-old boy, fatally shot blocks from his West Town school.
Pfleger, senior pastor at St. Sabina, called the uptick in murders shameful.
“We should be ashamed and embarrassed as a city that we have to find ways to help bury our babies,” Pfleger said. “But this is our reality. While crime and violence are still out of control, we ought to help our children and families and not have them have to wonder and worry about it.”
Pfleger long has worked with families who’ve gone through the “horrific shock and tragedy of having their child killed.” They often don’t have insurance for their young children, Pfleger said.
Instead, they rely on GoFundMe fundraisers and assistance from neighbors to pay for the hefty, unexpected costs of a funeral. If their story doesn’t gain traction in news media or social media, chances are they’ll have an even harder time finding the funds, Pfleger said.
The Mychal Moultry Jr. Funeral and Burial Assistance Act gives families the chance to grieve properly and give their children the service they deserve.
“This [bill] helps families and loved ones, and takes one less weight off their shoulders when they’re already ready to lose their minds,” Pfleger said. “If we didn’t have the violence like it is, we wouldn’t have to worry about something like this. Until we have a handle on this, we need to help our parents.”
Pamela Bosley, founder of Purpose Over Pain, a violence prevention group founded by Chicago parents who have lost children to gun violence, said families never expect to lose a child. If the law passes, it will help families navigate the unexpected trauma.
If the legislation is successful, Bosley said she hopes it can be expanded to include families of older children. Her son was murdered when he was 18 years old.
“Lately, we live in a world where our children are leaving us,” Bosley said. “There are a lot of people in the Black and Brown communities who don’t have insurance or funding. This law could make a difference and be helpful.”
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