By Ellen Jean Hirst
CHICAGO -- For the fourth Christmas Eve since her son's murder, Julia Hudson along with her sister, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, tried to create something positive out of her family's tragedy.
The Hudson sisters and volunteers gave Christmas gifts to thousands of youngsters Monday through a toy drive organized by the foundation Julia Hudson started to honor her son, the Julian D. King Gift Foundation.
"It's a blessing to be able to give back to where you came from," Jennifer Hudson said. "To turn something so sad into such a blessing."
In October 2008, 7-year-old Julian King, along with the Hudson's sisters' mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, were shot and killed. William Balfour, Julia Hudson's ex-husband, was convicted of the murders and sentenced in July to three life sentences.
Julia Hudson subsequently started the foundation and toy giveaway "to kind of help us heal," she said Monday.
She and her sister greeted thousands of children who came to the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in the South Side West Pullman neighborhood for a little Christmas cheer.
"The best part is just seeing the happy faces of the kiddies," Jennifer Hudson said.
A line started forming at 3 a.m. and eventually stretched into the community center's parking lot, where families stood bundled in the cold. The families, some with tiny babies, were ushered into waiting rooms where they sat, in some cases for hours, before making it to a room where each child chose one toy, then were given a board game and either a teddy bear or a ball.