WACO, Texas — Families, friends and law enforcement gathered Tuesday night to remember victims of violent crime at the 11th annual "Tree of Angels" dedication ceremony at the Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church in Waco.
One by one, attendees filled a Christmas tree with ornaments, each with the names of a loved one.
One of those names was Braeden Freeman, a 20-year-old from Mart who was murdered in 2015. His mother, Nikkey Freeman, has been hanging his ornament on the Tree of Angels for six years.
"To be able to honor Braeden's memory by hanging an ornament for him was pretty special...and we just continue to do it every year," Freeman said. Several ornaments dedicated to Freeman hang on the tree. One is made to look just like her son.
"He had very long, beautiful hair, and so this just kind of fit the first year to mold this," Freeman said.
Law enforcement representatives from Waco Police, McLennan County District Attorney's Office, Department of Public Safety, and the McLennan County Sheriff's Office also attended the event to support the victims and their families.
"I hope it makes them feel loved...and let them know how special they are," said Melissa Beseda, of Waco PD's victim services department.
Freeman said that's exactly how it feels to see so much support from her community.
"It lets us know that we matter...and that our family members matter...and we still matter, no matter how long they've been gone," Freeman said.
The Tree of Angels program began in 1991 in Austin. Events are held all over the state. To find one, you can visit the People Against Violent Crime organization's website.