61ºF

Party held to remember 22-month-old boy killed

Family members, friends celebrate Aiden McClendon's birthday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A giant cake, balloons and a bounce house were the makings of a huge party for a little boy who won't get to enjoy any of it.

Family members and friends said they are celebrating Aiden McClendon's birthday as they would if he were alive.

"He's not physically here, but he's here in spirit," said great-grandmother Mary Thomas.

Thomas said she is focusing on the warm memories his bright smile brought to her, not how he was taken away.

"I know that there is a greater good that's going to come from it and God will get the glory from it," Thomas said.

Now that Aiden's alleged killer has been charged, there is some closure for family and friends, but it doesn't take away the pain of what happened to the toddler.

"That was the most cowardly act that they could've done and it was the most hellish act that they could've done," Thomas said.

Other members of the community came out to celebrate Aiden's birthday, including City Council members.

"The gang activity, they don't know what to do and they don't have any hope, so we are trying to, with the mayor, the council and myself, we are trying to pass bills and laws to help the youth," said City Council member Sam Newby.

The city said it was there to support the family because when one person is lost, the community hurts, especially when it's an innocent child.

"Let kids know, let the families know that we are here for them," Newby said.

Thomas said she is praying for the man responsible for Aiden's death and she's hoping this can be a lesson to others to not take part in gang activity.

"I just plead for any people who are involved just to walk away," Thomas said.