View the article on Vindy.com: vindy.com/stepping-out-for-slaven
By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Adrienne Mowry won’t soon forget the kindness that Justin Slaven routinely extended toward everyone he encountered, especially those with physical disabilities.
“Even though he was disabled himself, he always wanted to help others,” said Mowry, who knew Justin through her work with the Purple Cat, a day program for adults with special needs. “He was the nicest person, and he certainly made you smile.”
In the almost five years that Justin attended the Purple Cat, which he became part of shortly after graduating from Struthers High School in 2009, he was a favorite client of those who worked there.
His death hit them hard.
The 23-year-old was found dead of a gunshot wound in the basement of his Seventh Street residence March 20, while his mother, 44-year-old Leslie Slaven, was wounded and unconscious. She died less than a week later. Police called the tragedy an apparent murder-suicide.
Mowry said she immediately felt compelled to turn something so devastating into a positive.
With that goal in mind, she and the Purple Cat began to organize the Stepping Out For Slaven fundraiser — a 5K run, 1-mile walk and kids race — that will take place June 29 to benefit Robert Slaven, Justin’s father. The money raised will then be used for any bills or expenses Robert is facing.
Some proceeds also will go toward the special-needs program at Struthers High School, supporting its efforts and funding student scholarships.
“He loved his community,” said Mowry, referring to Justin. “I’m hoping for everybody to come together, and show how much they love Justin and support his dad in any way they can.”
The event will begin at 9 a.m., with the route consisting of the streets surrounding Struthers High School, 111 Euclid Ave. Parking will be available that day in the gravel lot across from the high-school stadium and in the parking lot of St. Nicholas Great Hall, as well as on surrounding streets.
The registration cost for the 5K run (age 12 and up) is $15, while the all-ages 1-mile walk is $15, and the kids race (age 12 and under) is $10. The deadline to register is June 23. To register online, visit www.bigpurplecat.com/justin.
Jimmy Sutman, owner and founder of the Purple Cat, said he and his co-workers were “so impressed” by the Struthers community’s rallying around the Slaven family in the aftermath of the tragedy. An online fundraiser started by a former neighbor raised $5,800 in a matter of days to help pay for funeral expenses, for example, and a candlelight vigil at the high school was attended by more than 100 family members, friends, former teachers and community members.
“We wanted to take a leadership role in getting Struthers together again,” said Sutman of the Purple Cat, which is sponsoring the event. “Now that Justin and his mom are gone, we want to take care of [Robert] as much as possible.”
Sutman added that he’s hoping for a strong turnout for the event in memory of Justin, a client he’ll always remember as “effervescent and full of life and super-kind to everybody.”
Donations are being accepted under the “Stepping Out For Slaven” account at the Struthers Federal Credit Union and at Huntington Bank locations. They also can be mailed to the Purple Cat, Attn: Adrienne Mowry, at 4738 McCartney Road, Lowellville, OH 44436.