DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW)– Darlington residents gathered Sunday in hopes of making a difference in their community. Organizers of the “Stop the Violence” back-to-school event said they want to make the area safer for children.

“Little guys that were close to me have been killed here in Darlington,” organizer Shamika Cottingham said. “It’s kind of been on my mind that I need to try and put this together for my family and also for the community.”

Cottingham said she and the other organizers had been planning the event for more than three months. She said the murder of several of her nephews’ friends spurred her into action.

“One of his friends was killed in the backseat of his car,” Cottingham said. “That was one of the things that really put an impact on me.” The event featured music, vendors, guest speakers and free school supplies.

“For the kids to go places and not have to worry about shootings happening,” organizer Donna Goodson said. “We just want to get the kids involved.” The organizers said they want attendees to leave the event understanding that the way young children are raised affects the community as a whole.

“Right now their future is in our hands, but we have to remember that our future will be in their hands one day,” guest speaker Lashonda Nesmith-Jackson said. “We have to be sure that we equip them with the necessary tools to be successful.”

“What goes on at home matters in the community,” organizer Angela McFadden-Hilton said. “If you don’t pay attention to these children, they think you don’t love them, that the community doesn’t love them. It starts from home.” The event organizers are small business owners who aim to reduce violent crime in the region. They say they hope to organize a similar event in November.