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TURNING AROUND TRAGEDY Annual Joliet rally focuses on hope, diminishing fear By DENISE M. BARAN–UNLAND dunland@shawmedia.com JOLIET – Hope. Don’t let fear control your life. During this year’s “Will County Take Back the Night” rally, Sherry Anicich of Plainfield will speak on the first topic and Kellie Stryker of Crystal Lake will speak on the second. The fact these two women are collaborating on these topics proves their earnestness. Anicich is the mother of Alisha Bromfield, 21, of Plainfield. A co-worker, Brian M. Cooper, 37, of Plainfield, was sentenced Aug. 19, 2012 for murdering Bromfield, when they were in Wisconsin for a wedding. Bromfield was 7 months pregnant – Cooper was not the father – and planned to call the baby Ava. Stryker is Cooper’s sister, a social worker specializing in mental health, child abuse and domestic violence. Earlier this year, Anicich and Stryker both testified before the Wisconsin Legislature as to why voluntary intoxication should not be a homicide defense. Assembly Bill 780, which says just that, as signed into law in August. The first time Anicich and Stryker had formally met was at the capitol building in February, but it won’t be their last collaboration, Anicich said. Although Take Back the Night will be their first formal public speaking appearance, it won’t be the last. More speaking engagements are scheduled, Anicich added, but don’t expect them to focus on the murder. “I want people to know that you can take something so evil and tragic and turn it around into something good,” Anicich said. Stryker, 29, who said she grew up in a mentally and abusive environment, has separated herself from many family

Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com

LEFT: Sherry Anicich’s 21-year-old daughter, Alisha Bromfield, was murdered in 2012. Anicich will be speaking along with Kellie Stryker, the sister of Bromfield’s murderer, at a Take Back the Night vigil and march Thursday at Joliet Memorial Stadium. TOP: Stryker stands in her Crystal Lake home Sept. 25. In May, Stryker’s brother Brian M. Cooper of Plainfield was found guilty of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for strangulation death of Alisha Bromfield, 21, also of Plainfield, and her unborn baby, Ava.

Lathan Goumas – lgoumas@shawmedia.com

members. This has triggered anxiety, Stryker said, but she refuses to allow that anxiety to rule her life. “Fear is an emotion you can overcome,” Stryker said. “Once you overcome it, you can have your destiny be what you want it to be. You can be your own person.” Stryker’s first swing against fear was after Cooper’s first trial – where Stryker testified on Cooper’s behalf – ended in a hung journey. It bothered Stryker that Cooper refused to take responsibility for his actions. “I had to do the right thing,” Stryker said. “I had to speak out.” After testifying against her brother, Stryker contacted Anicich, uncertain if the reception would be gracious or hostile. Anicich said she

did feel angry at first, until she realized Stryker’s sincerity. “I was very protective of my own self,” said Anicich, who added that her devotion to Mary, Jesus’ mother, provides strength and guidance, “but then I decided to open my heart up.” Stryker was immediately impressed by Anicich’s efforts to keep Bromfield’s memory alive and said Anicich is a tremendous inspiration to her. “She’s a selfless person just for giving me a chance to be in her life. It means the world,” Stryker said. “She is a courageous woman who has dealt with so much in the aftermath of her daughter’s death.” Since Bromfield’s death, Anicich, a counselor with 20 years of grief experience, has begun a foundation called the Purple Project (www.purple-

project.org) that has made and distributed 4,000 purple rosaries (purple was Bromfield’s favorite color), as well as “Pay It Forward” cards that encourage people to do good deeds. Anicich also has distributed baby bottles for people to fill to support unwed mothers in the memory of Anicich’s granddaughter Ava that never lived to see birth. A member of Joliet Junior Woman’s Club (jolietjuniors.org), Anicich said a $1,000 scholarship the group awards is now called the Alisha and Ava Bromfield Memorial Community Scholarship. The Purple Project recently held a bowling fundraiser. Anicich’s goal is to eventually open a home for unwed mothers and to offer them counseling, spiritual guidance and basic life skills classes. Yet, despite her resolve and noble activities, Anicich is nervous about her first public speaking appearance, which will be Thursday. “I just hope we can get our message across,” Anicich said.

If you go n WHAT: Will County Take Back the Night n WHEN: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday n WHERE: Joliet Memorial Stadium, 3000 W. Jefferson St. Joliet n ETC: Guest speakers, memorial program, march. Food pantry donations will be accepted. Proceeds will go to local battered women’s shelters. n VISIT: www.willtbtn.com and facebook.com/WillTBTN

Sherry Anicich suggested the following ways to show support after tragedy strikes: • Send an occasional “I’m thinking about you” or I’m praying for you.” • Post an inspirational quote on Facebook. • Offer to take a 30-minute walk. • Ask, “How are you today?” and be prepared to listen. • Remember significant days – birthdays, holidays, and the anniversary date of the tragedy – with a card, a note or phone call.

57 The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 28, 2014

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