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Cleveland Strangler victims honored during memorial service, dove release

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

He's been sentenced to die but for family members of the victims of Cleveland Strangler Anthony Sowell Labor Day was about keeping their loved ones' memories alive.

"It was very touching, I'm still a little choked up," said family member Donnita Carmichael.

"One Thousand Balloons for the Angels of Imperial Avenue", a memorial service, dove release and balloon launch to honor the eleven women who were slain on Cleveland's Imperial Avenue, was part of the activities of the 40th annual Eleventh Congressional District Community Caucus Labor Day Parade and Festival at Luke Easter Park Monday. 

"This is my daughter and this was my niece," said Florence Bray.

The memorial event was initiated by Marcella Boyd Cox, Chief Marketing Officer for the E.F. Boyd & Son Funeral Home and Crematory. "The legal system has performed its duties, and it is now time to return our focus to the victims or "Angels" who died on Imperial Avenue. The goal, to release 500 to 1,100 balloons and eleven doves to honor their spirits," Cox proclaimed. Festival attendees were asked to volunteer to participate in the launch of the individual balloons.

Eleventh District Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge eagerly embraces honoring the victims. "I want the final memory of this tragedy to be of the humanity and dignity of the slain women. People all over the world will know that our district values the worth of all human beings."

Megan O'Bryan, President/CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center looks forward to the event as a teachable moment. "This balloon launch will communicate the message that violence against women is not tolerated. Many people will change perceptions and behaviors because of this event. We are working to build a community where far fewer women will be victims of violence."

Marcia L. McCoy, Executive Director of Community Covenant Oversight Team assisted in coordinating the sacred balloon release by reaching out to the victims' families. "I'm grateful that God placed the idea for this memorial on the heart of Marcella Boyd. She is sincere in her plans to bring peace and healing to our community by galvanizing business owners, clergy, civil rights organizations, elected officials, activists, community leaders and others to support the 11 families."

Kaye Gaines of Gaines Funeral Home stated, "I feel that the eleven family members will feel some relief by releasing their emotions up to the heavens by way of the balloons and the lily white doves. We hope that the release of the balloons and doves will share this sense of healing and peace with the entire world," said Ms. Gaines.

The goal of the balloon release was to show community support for the eleven slain angels and their families. Specific objectives include: Increased awareness of violence against women; Solidarity with the families of the eleven victims; Spiritual bond with the eleven victims; and Empowerment to take actions for a safer, stronger community. The balloons will be made of biodegradable latex.

The Eleventh District Caucus Parade and Festival is an annual Labor Day tradition that was begun by former Cleveland mayor, Carl Stokes, and his brother, former 21st and 11th District Congressman Louis Stokes, 40 years ago. In addition to the balloon launch, this year's festival  featured a special tribute to Congressman Louis Stokes.

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