UPDATED TUESDAY: Help make Christmas for 2 boys


The outpouring for Steven and Chris Weston has been heartwarming. Here’s the status, and what you can/should do if you still wish to help:

• The immediate needs for a full Christmas tree have been accomplished. So gifts are certainly still appreciated, but not as vital at this point.

• Longer-term options to provide for basic necessities are the more practical approach now, with gift cards and such.

• People wanting to donate cash have been directed to the established accounts through the Lordstown teachers group (Associated Schools Employees Credit Union) and through the local ham radio operators group (Key Bank). Both groups report a few thousand dollars have come in.

• If you do have gifts and goods, the Youngstown Sports Grille restaurant has offered to be a south Mahoning County drop-off spot for this combined effort.

Thanks ... Todd

“Coooool hair ...”

That’s how Christopher Weston, 12, greeted me Friday when I went to meet him and his little brother, Steven, 8.

Christopher was more assured and at ease at that moment than I was.

Chris and Steven just lost their dad Tuesday in another tragic episode of Youngstown violence. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach them — except to take a deep breath and hope for the best.

When you meet the two affable boys, the rest comes easy.

Their dad, Christopher, 44, was a construction handyman who worked the last four years for businessman George Rafidi. He had just opened a convenience store on Youngstown’s rugged South Side — just off Glenwood Avenue.

Christopher did the reconstruction work on the old structure. He opened the store Tuesday when Rafidi could not make it in. An unidentified assailant walked in and put two bullets in Weston’s back, rustled his pockets and wallet and walked out unnoticed — except for the hole he left in the childhoods of two cool kids.

When any violence strikes, the trail of tragedy can run for miles and years. This one will, too. But it lingers with many of us as well, for a couple reasons.

The boys’ mom died in March of heart ailments, and the day Weston was killed was young Chris’ 12th birthday. Instead of dad coming home, it was the police.

In “Uncle Jim” Weston’s home in Howland, the boys are pretty precious.

“A lot of people want to help us. And that’s nice,” said Chris.

He’s as poised as he appeared on the TV news Wednesday.

Steven was a bit quiet on TV. But on Friday, he was anything but — bouncing on his toes as we started to tell stories.

“Want to see the cards my classmates wrote for me?” he asked.

We thumbed through them on Uncle Jim’s living-room floor — and more preciousness rolled out.

“I taught her how to color in the lines,” Steven says of one girl’s card.

He showed me a car drawing from another classmate. “He didn’t know how to draw cars. I showed him how.”

Chris shared a story about how they grew to like tennis.

Last summer, they would walk from their home in a hardscrabble area of Lords-town to a park and watch a youth team practice tennis. This went on for several days. One day, the boys helped pick up the balls after practice, and the coach gave them a can of balls and two used rackets.

But pain is just below the smiles.

Steven shared a story of his part-time job at the school that many people didn’t know about, he said.

“I helped clean lunch tables with the janitor. He gave me $1.75,” Steven said cheerfully, until ...

“I don’t want to talk any more about it. It makes me think of my mom. She was glad I got that job.”

We switched to Diamond, their Yorkie dog that they had wanted to show me. Diamond’s a great dog, they said — even though she chewed the tennis rackets.

They wanted to show me their skill on the Nintendo Gamecube. As it’s a 2002ish system, they note that the Austintown GameStop is the best place for them to find games.

“Want to see my Bakugan?” Steven asked. “What the heck is that?” I asked.

He showed me, and I said that years ago, we simply called those “Transformers.”

Chris jumped in. “They made Transformers too complicated. Bakugans change easier and are more fun.”

So this is how a childhood starts over ... one tender tale at a time.

That it’s on Uncle Jim’s living-room floor is a right place.

He’s a jeans-and-boots guy who talks in soft tones. But there’s unbending steel in his voice and eyes — like a boxer in a weigh-in staredown.

I heard it on TV news when he called the shooting “cowardly.” He was unflinching when he described his brother’s pride in his reconstruction work at the store.

He was stoic in sharing that the boys asked him if maybe the police made a mistake — that maybe it wasn’t their dad who was killed.

And he’s at his strongest when he says that the family will work this out for Chris and Steven.

To be sure, he’s not sure how.

This is new ground for them, and nothing around Jim screams lavish — except possibly his will and patience. He used to work at Packard until the downsizing caught him, too. He’s set to go full time to Youngstown State University for information technology.

He says life will be one day at a time and with the resolve that what’s done is done, and you have to pick up the pieces.

They could use some help picking up the pieces. Some folks have started.

Teachers at the boys’ school, Lordstown Elementary, started a fund at the Associated Schools Employees Credit Union. You can donate at their eight locations in the Valley.

Jim Cessna of the local radio-operators group started a fund at Key Bank.

Both groups reported this weekend that their efforts have a good start.

But wounds for a lifetime could use more of your help.

If you want to help with gifts or donations, call or e-mail me, and I can connect you.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about story ideas and our newspaper. You can e-mail him at tfranko@vindy.com or call 330-747-1471, ext. 1253.