AUSTIN, Texas — After their son was killed on an overseas trip back in 2017, the family of Bakari Henderson is helping other families who have gone through similar tragedies heal.
On Saturday night, the foundation named in his honor, The Bakari Foundation, hosted the second annual "Bakari Legacy" event at the Archer Hotel in Austin in honor of the slain 22-year-old.
In July of 2017, Henderson was beaten to death by a group of men outside of a nightclub in Greece. He had traveled there and had plans to travel to Spain afterward, in hopes of launching his clothing line, Bakari Luxury Sportswear.
His mother, Jill Henderson, described the young man as an outgoing, upbeat person who wanted to help others when he could. He graduated from Hyde Park High School in Austin and then attended the University of Arizona with a full academic scholarship.
"He [Bakari] was the big shining light in the room. He was very joyful, had a big boisterous laugh," Henderson said. "He was also a good listener, so his friends leaned on him for guidance and just support."
In November, the men responsible for Henderson's death were given a lighter sentence. The Henderson family is currently waiting a retrial in the case, but instead of letting anger consume them, they've decided to give back and help others.
The money raised through the Bakari Foundation and the event will go toward funding special travel experiences for families who have lost loved ones in the way Bakari's family lost him. The Henderson family chose to help families this way because they say Bakari loved to travel himself.
How the trip works: based on each family's individual story and their unique struggles, the board reviews their application to see what could help them in their healing process, whether that means a trip that could bring them closer to nature, counseling, special meditation, yoga, etc. On the foundation's board is a professional counselor and travel agent who will help the family customize their travel package based on their needs and where they want to go.
"We just wanted to be able to honor families and let them know that we're here to support them, and it helps us as well," said Jill Henderson. "We offer a transformative travel experience, all-inclusive, based on the application process and the choices they put down that would help them with their healing process."
The event honored its first recipient family on Saturday night: the family of Emily Todd. In December, 25-year-old Todd was murdered by a man she met on social media in Connecticut. Her stepfather, Thomas Lawlor, and uncle, Greg Henry, made the trip down to represent Emily's family. They said while the past few months have been incredibly difficult, that the support of their family and the Bakari Foundation has been overwhelming.
"We couldn't feel more comfortable if they were sitting around in our own table in Connecticut," Lawlor said.
"The power of family, and family coming together, and I don't think that any of us would have been able to pull through and keep our head above water without a strong family around us," said Henry.
The family says they plan to take a trip to Disney World for the first time.
"I think Bakari had made a lot of memories for himself in different parts of the world, which is something that myself and our family really hasn't done," Lawlor said. "We're homebodies, so it's going to be exciting."
The two families were bound by the pain of having lost a child, but also the comfort in knowing they're not alone.
"Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, and don't try to rush the healing process, because it's a long journey and it's one you have to go through you can't really go around it," Henderson said. "You just really have to take time to let yourself heal."
Henderson said while only one family is being honored at this year's event, the foundation hopes to help four to five families next year, and that the application process will open soon.
To learn more about the application process, click here.
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