For more than three years, the Green family’s dining room table has been dedicated to the foundation created in memory of an exuberant 9-year-old girl who was lost in a spray of bullets on Jan. 8, 2011.
That table will soon be cleared of paperwork. Though the decision wasn’t an easy one, the Greens will be retiring theirChristina-Taylor GreenMemorial Foundation in June after they distribute its remaining funds to local groups in need.
On Sept. 11,Roxanna Green, husband John and son Dallashope to celebrate Christina-Taylor’s 13th birthday in the dining room where they once spent time as a family of four.
“It is difficult because we put a lot of heart and soul into the foundation. The goal was to make sure Christina-Taylor was remembered in the community, and that they could be inspired by a little girl who had all the hopes and dreams in the world,” her father, John, said. “We really focused on trying to take care of those less fortunate. We helped a lot of people and we are very proud of it.
“It was time for us as a family. We were so consumed with the foundation in the last three years, there was still some mourning left to do. We can do that a bit more out of the spotlight, in our own way.”
The Greens now want to spend more time as a family — time that has been close to nonexistent since the day Christina-Taylor left with a neighbor to meet then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffordsat a nearby shopping mall. The dark-eyed third-grader had recently been elected to her student council and was minutes away from shaking Giffords’ hand when a gunman shot into the crowd, killing six people, including Christina-Taylor. She was the youngest person at the event that day.
“The Green family has had to give a lot of their personal life after what happened,” said Thom Martinez, a Tucson businessman who has been president of the foundation for the past two years. “As a foundation we felt we had accomplished our mission to bring positive things to the community after the tragedy.”
Within 24 hours of the shooting, the Greens had received so much mail that they had to forward all of their correspondence to a post office box. They were overwhelmed with phone calls, visitors, journalists and invitations to countless public and private events. Donations poured into memorial foundations for all the victims created by the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. The Green family wanted to use theirs for charity projects, and that’s how the foundation was created.
“We could have given the money away and mourned or started a nonprofit,” said Roxanna, a home health nurse by training. “We decided to march on and the foundation helped me heal.”
Roxanna created the foundation to further her daughter’s interests. Rather than being remembered solely as the little girl killed Jan. 8, the foundation supported projects representing the values of caring for others that Christina-Taylor stood for, as well as her interests in athletics, arts and academics.
One of her favorite activities was volunteering with a group called Kids Helping Kids, where children meet and assist others in their age group who need basics like shelter and food. When Christina-Taylor met a little girl her age living in a group home, she told her family: “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” That phrase was repeated by journalists and by President Obama in the days after her death, and it inspired her mother to move forward with charitable projects.
The foundation provided nearly $1 million to dozens of local projects that included laptops for local elementary schools, grief-support programs at Tu Nidito, a new ropes course for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona camp on Mount Lemmon, services for homeless students through the local group Youth on Their Own, and a new playground at Mesa Verde Elementary School, where Christina-Taylor was a student at the time of her death.
The Christina-Taylor Green Little Hands Playground replaced an old metal one that had not been updated for 35 years. Christina-Taylor used to tell her mother how much she and the other students hoped for a new one. Her classmates provided design ideas for the 2,000 square-foot play area project.
The foundation gave grants totaling $24,000 to the local group Team Up For Tucson over the past two years, allowing the nonprofit to help provide Christmas gifts to 5,000 local families living in poverty, Team Up For Tucson founder Michele Ochoasaid.
The group’s Christmastime “Stuff the Hummers” event to donate toys was bolstered by the foundation, drawing crowds of people who wanted to come together and do something positive in Christina-Taylor’s memory.
The foundation was also a fitting legacy for Christina-Taylor, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, her father said.
She used to say she was born on a holiday but as she grew older, her parents helped her to understand that it was a horrible, tragic day, yet one that unified the country in compassion for one another. She took the meaning of her birthday very seriously.
“Just like we learned and Christina-Taylor learned, it was also a hopeful day. That hope gave her passion, and a spark to help other people,” John said. “Even though this tragedy happened to our family, there is compassion out there and a lot of good things in the world.”
Roxanna’s friends and family note that in addition to running the foundation and being a wife and mother, Roxanna kept a grueling pace with other activities.
She has traveled around the country calling for stricter gun laws with a group called Moms Demand Action, attended congressional hearings, and has spent time with people who lost relatives in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, the Wisconsin Sikh temple massacre and the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
Three days after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Roxanna was there meeting with first responders. She returned a month later and handed out copper angel ornaments from the foundation.
She has made dozens of television appearances and wrote an inspirational book about her daughter with bestselling author Jerry Jenkinsthat raised funds for the foundation.
In the midst of everything, Roxanna had two hip replacements yet barely stopped for any kind of a rest, her friends say. She also has had extended periods caring for Dallas, 14, on her own, while John is on the road for work. Since she’s not someone who does anything part time, she was frequently exhausted.
“They had to make that commitment to the community, to make sure the legacy of their daughter was fulfilled. Maybe now is the time for healing, for the community and for their family,” Martinez said. “That was a special child, I know she is pleased with what we’ve done.”
While giving up a foundation that has given her so much strength is bittersweet, Roxanna says she’s at peace. She’s remaining involved with a Washington D.C.-based group called Running Start that aims to get girls interested in politics. For two years the group offered scholarships in Christina-Taylor’s memory.
Roxanna so often feels her daughter, especially when she’s doing something that Christina-Taylor would have enjoyed, like a recent Team Up For Tucson fundraiser to purchase bulletproof vests for the Tucson Police Department’s K-9 Unit. One of Christina-Taylor’s many career goals, in addition to being a professional baseball player and president of the United States, was to become a veterinarian.
Roxanna sees Christina-Taylor’s friends from time to time, and loved attending their fifth-grade graduation. They are in sixth grade now. Every Sept. 11 they release pink and purple balloons for their friend at the northwest-side park that was named in Christina-Taylor’s memory.
“Her friends have grown up to be lovely young ladies,” Roxanna said. “They tell me that they will never forget their exceptional and forever friend.”
Part of moving forward will be celebrating Christina-Taylor’s life and accomplishments on Sept. 11 at a family birthday party in a room they haven’t used for family meals since she died.
“John and I never discussed not using the formal dining room, we just never went there to eat,” Roxanna said. “We associate it with happy times and laughing. ... It will not be the same without our happy, spirited girl.”
All along, the Greens wanted to make sure people knew their joyous, hopeful daughter.
Martinez noted that Christina-Taylor’s legacy will live on in all the projects the foundation funded, as well as the various memorials around the city that have been created in her name. One of her family’s favorites is a healing garden in Christina-Taylor’s memory at St. Odilia’s Catholic Church.
“We look back to all the folks who got involved and we are all very proud of what has been accomplished. Each person will take a little piece of Christina with them,” John said.
John, a baseball scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, always knew his wife was strong. But her energy and work in the last three years has been nothing short of remarkable, he said.
“She has been unbelievable through this whole time,” he said. “Christina-Taylor would be very proud of her.”