Jacob Crater, victim assistance coordinator with the Rusk County District Attorney's Office, said a mother, whose child was killed six or seven years ago, will speak to attendees. Different elected officials also are slated to come, along with a singer, he said. A preacher will give the opening invocation.
Additionally, attendees will adorn the tree with special ornaments that represent loved ones and victims. Crater said the ornament doesn't have to be an angel, and there may be six or seven ornaments on the tree pertaining to one person.
Normally, people grab an ornament they previously used on the tree or bring a new one and place it on the tree during the adornment time, he said.
“Our main goal is just to give the victims, and it doesn't necessarily have to be in Rusk County, somewhere to go to remember their loved one and honor them where people there are dealing with the same thing, and to give them hope and remember the person they lost,” Crater said.
Since Ms. Martin approached elected officials, the Tree of Angels in Rusk County has grown, Crater said. The location has changed — the event used to be in the Rusk County Courthouse — and the tree is now bigger and able to accommodate more ornaments. Last year, Tree of Angels drew more than 100 people, Ms. Martin said.
Everyone is invited to come on Monday to show support, even if they are not a victim or family member of a victim.
“I keep asking myself 'Is it working?' and everyone has said keep doing it because for them I think it gives them hope. It gives them somewhere to remember their loved one. … I think it's just a healing for them,” Crater said.
“We don't do it for any other reason than to help … (and) give back a little bit.”
Ms. Martin added, “The more people I can reach is what I want to do. If I can get one more person each year that makes my tree.”