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Close friend of victim in JCC shootings carries on his legacy as part of SevenDays campaign

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Seven words -- Seven themes -- for SevenDays -- all promoting interfaith dialogue among all people through acts of kindness. This week’s Reaching 4 Excellence young achiever is working to promote peace and understanding.

“I was at Great Clips when I started getting all the texts from my friends, so I was starting to freak out a little bit there, and then when I got home I just kind of told my dad what was going on. He contacted Mindy and that's when we found out,” Dawson Gardner said.

The 18- year-old remembers the Jewish Community Center shooting like it was yesterday. On April 13, 2014, 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., shot two people in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. A third person was shot and killed at a nearby Village Shalom.

“Reat and I have been friends since Kindergarten. He's gone. They're gone because I knew ‘Popeye’ or Bill, pretty well, too," Gardner said.

Dr. William Corporon, his grandson Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno were gunned down by a man who thought he was targeting Jewish people. None of the victims were.

“If we have understanding, we won’t have a much fear, and if we don't have fear, we won't have hate," Mindy Corporon said.

Corporon's son and father were murdered that day, and it's why she created SevenDays.

“Every time I talk about SevenDays it makes me remember why I do it," she said.

Gardner lost his dear friend Reat in the shooting. He's now dedicated years to making sure his friend's legacy lives on.

“I do it because I think it's important to remember what he died for,” he said.

The Blue Valley High School senior is the director of the youth board for SevenDays. He and his team are busy planning events for the week-long event.

“He just, he always was there to live life no matter what happened,"

Reat was in the process of obtaining an Eagle Scout rank. Dawson, finished Reat’s project and earned the badge in his friends honor.

“It just felt good to actually finish it, help his troop finish it and just make sure he didn't leave anything undone," he said.

He then went on to complete his own project to obtain his own Eagle Scout ranking. Dawson is also part of the cross country team, pep club and is a former band and football player. SevenDays kicks off April 18th and runs through the 24th.