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River North, Gold Coast, Near North Side

Toy Drive Honoring Slain 9-Year-Old Janari Ricks Is Back For Another Year

Christmas was Janari Ricks' favorite holiday because he got to gift presents to his friends, said his mother, Jalisa Ford. Now she's keeping that tradition alive with her third annual toy drive.

Janari Ricks loved giving back to his friends during the holidays, his mother said.
Provided/Jalisa Ford
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NEAR NORTH SIDE — A mother whose 9-year-old son was shot to death two years ago on the Near North Side is holding her third toy drive for the neighborhood.

Jalisa Ford is collecting the toys through the 1 JAR Foundation, a nonprofit she founded to support the Near North Side after her son, Janari Andre Ricks, was killed July 31, 2020.

Credit: Provided/Jalisa Ford
Janari Ricks, 9

The foundation is collecting new, unwrapped toys, coats, cold-weather garments, snacks, beverages and gift cards through Dec. 16. People can find out the dropoff location by emailing

People can also support the effort online by shopping the toy drive’s Amazon wish list or donating to its GoFundMe.

The toys will be given away Dec. 17 at Holy Family Lutheran Church, 524 W. Hobbie St.

“This toy drive is not just in honor of my son, Janari, but it’s to help all the kids and families on the Near North Side,” Ford said.

Christmas was Ricks’ favorite holiday because he loved giving to other people, Ford said.

“Janari always wanted to give back to his friends and peers during the holidays,” Ford said last year. “Each year, we’d pick two kids, maybe from his school or programs that he was in, and we’d a buy a gift for them.”

Ford decided to keep that family tradition alive by organizing a massive toy drive months after Ricks’ death. They handed out more than 10,000 gifts to local children. The toy drive last year was just as successful, Ford said.

“It’s amazing, because as I look back on this tragedy, I can see the good I’ve been doing for my community in honor of my son,” Ford said. “It’s such a blessing to be able to honor his legacy and have so much support from everyone.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Jalisa Ford stands near the garden memorial for her son, Janari Ricks, who was fatally shot in 2020 at 9 years old.

In 2020, Janari was playing outside near his home in the 900 block of North Cambridge Avenue when a man got out of his car and tried to shoot another man, police said.

The shooter hit Janari several times before taking off, police said. Police credited neighbors who spoke up about the shooting in helping them arrest and charge 39-year-old Darrell Johnson days later.

Janari was an “old soul” who was very social and generous with other kids, Ford said.

“Janari was so giving,” Ford said. “If he had $1, he’d try and find a way to split it with two of his friends.”

More information can be found on the 1 JAR Foundation’s website.

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