Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: Parents honored for work against teen violence since son’s death

FREDERICKSBURG FREE LANCE-STAR, SCOTT SHENK

aron Braswell and Gwendolyn Martinez received an award this week for the work they have done since their teenage son’s stabbing death in 2006.

Braswell, a former Spotsylvania County School Board member, and Martinez were presented the Suzanne McDaniel Memorial award for Public Awareness on Tuesday in an event attended by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who nominated the parents for the honor.

The award marked the parents’ work to prevent teen violence in the form of a yearly run memorializing their late son.

Baron “Deuce” Braswell II was a 16-year-old Courtland junior and a versatile athlete who starred on the football team in 2005 before he was stabbed to death in January 2006.

Braswell and Martinez are set to host the 19th Baron “Deuce” P. Braswell Run Against Teen Violence in September. The event raises money for college scholarships, with more than $164,000 raised so far.

On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Spanberger joined the U.S. Congressional Crime Survivors and Justice Caucus in presenting the award to Martinez and Braswell, “which recognizes those who use their voice to promote and bring about change to advance rights, awareness, and services for crime victims,” according to a news release from Spanberger.

“After Deuce’s murder at a party, Gwen and Baron chose to make a change in our community — and they started an annual run, where community members are brought together in a beautiful, joyful, athletic event on a September morning in Virginia,” Spanberger said in the statement. “We honor his life, people run a beautiful course, and — importantly — members of the community are educated on resources that are available related to preventing teen violence, related to joining in community with one another, and related to mental health and the challenges that face many of our kids.”

Braswell and Martinez spoke at the event.

Martinez remembers the January day in 2006 when her son was killed in “a senseless act of teen violence. As a mother I could not fathom the loss of my child. I wanted to curl up and just die because I felt like my kid should outlive me.”

But she had vision, telling her to “just stand up, run against teen violence.”

That led to the creation of the annual run in her son’s name. Martinez also continues to participate in other events highlighting teen violence and ways to help avoid it.

Braswell pointed out a Genesis quote from the Bible, relaying that Joseph said what those have meant for evil God will turn it around for good.

He continued, saying that “in our lives we want to exemplify that by giving back and doing good for others. Even though we’ve experienced deep pain we know that God is able and He can change things and we just trust him to use us in such a way that we can do it.”

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