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December 19, 2012

Groups deliver Christmas gifts to family of slain father

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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Valentena Hannawa, 16, holds her sister Audriana, 2, while looking at gifts during an Extreme Christmas Makeover event presented by Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids. Norman Yatooma, right, is dressed up as Santa Claus.

Santa Claus took a detour from the North Pole to visit the home of a West Bloomfield family whose children have recently struggled with the loss of their father.

Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids teamed up with Art Van Furniture to deliver a plethora of presents to the Hannawa family Dec. 15 as part of an Extreme Christmas Makeover campaign.

The father of the family, Samir Hannawa, was fatally shot Nov. 7 while standing outside a Detroit collision shop. He was 49, and he left behind his wife and seven children, ranging in age from 2-19.

Norman Yatooma, founder and president of Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids, said his charity was formed in memory of his own father, Manuel, who died in 1993 and left behind four sons — three of them minors at the time.

The charity founder said he was moved by the Hannawa family’s loss after reading about it.

“My father was also killed in gun violence and died in Detroit,” he said.

Yatooma, who practices law, said the charity helps families with children 18 or younger, whose parent or parents have died in the last two years. The charity provides everything from financial assistance to grief counseling.

For the Extreme Christmas Makeover, Yatooma said he dressed like Santa and took about 50 volunteer “elves” to help deliver large boxes of gifts to the Hannawas. Gifts included winter clothing, toys, groceries and a 42-inch TV.

In addition, the Hannawas received a large check, symbolizing the payment of the family’s winter expenses. Yatooma said his foundation is also helping facilitate the family’s move to a new home within the Walled Lake Community School District.

Yatooma said the Hannawa family opened up its home to the volunteers and offered them food. “They won’t take no for an answer,” he said.

The eldest Hannawa daughter, 19-year-old Athraa, told the Beacon after the event that she was stunned to see someone dressed up like Santa Claus outside, alongside carolers and flashing cameras.

She said it was “probably the biggest shock and surprise I’ve ever seen,” and it left her speechless.

“I was just beyond words at that point,” she said. “It was truly a blessing to do that. I am very happy. My family and my mom are so, so thankful.”

Learn more about the Bloomfield Township-based Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids at www.forthekidsfoundation.org or by calling (888) 987-KIDS.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.