Rockford Cease Fire worker Ali Graves knows the impact that a single gunshot can have across a lifetime.
"Forever, once you're a victim or a perpetrator, it stays with you, you know, so this is why we do we what we do," Graves said.
Graves understands that lesson firsthand. At 18, his friend Quincy Williams died from gun violence, but instead of retaliation, Graves changed his approach and fought to make his community safer for his and future generations.
"A lot of friends of mine were involved in gang violence back in the 80s. Now as an adult I wouldn't want my kids to go through that," Graves said.
On Saturday, Cease Fire volunteers again took to the neighborhoods with a message to increase the peace. Coordinator Ralph Hawthorne says having former gang members turned role models helps connect their cause to young people.
"We've got to be able to reach the population and this culture in a way that's relevant to them, and what better [a] way to do that then to [have] people talk to them that have been down that path?" Hawthorne said.
And after six months, Graves says while the Cease Fire movement is a marathon, not a sprint, their non-violence cause is off to a running start.
"We know we make a difference. We believe that we make a difference. We see it. Kids, a lot of people think they’re all gangbangers west of the river, but they come to us, they want help," Graves said.
It’s a helping hand from Cease Fire volunteers, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Cease Fire leaders are also planning in the coming months to set up a community coalition meeting. The forum will give the Rockford area updates on future neighborhood walks and other Cease Fire events.