Nampa’s KymFest has goal of reducing domestic violence, healing trauma in community
Sometimes on windy days, Donovan Larsen blows kisses to the sky.
The energetic toddler, who was born on New Year’s Day 2018, does this because his aunt and adoptive mother, Jade Warren, 36, told him that those kisses will reach his biological mom, Kymberlee “Kym” Larsen, in heaven.
“If the wind is blowing, he’ll just pucker up,” said Warren, who noticed blustery weather after Kym, her baby sister and the youngest of five siblings, was killed in March 2018 by Donovan’s father, Evan Bashir, who was shot to death by police
The 22-year-old mom had moved into sister Chelsea Larsen’s Nampa home just days earlier because her relationship with Bashir had become strained by his staying out all night and returning home drunk, her family says. The last straw was when he put his hands around her neck.
Fueled by anger, alcohol and methamphetamine, the 29-year-old Bashir wielded a machete and knife in his attack on Kym, Chelsea and their mother, Julianna “Juli” Flowers, now 58. Flowers suffered massive head and leg wounds, and she might have died from blood loss if not for the fast work of police and paramedics, according to Nampa Mayor Debbie Kling.
Kling attended Kym’s funeral, and she’s followed the family’s progress over the past 16 months. She recently met with Chelsea to discuss the family’s passion project to reduce domestic violence and help trauma survivors by promoting and connecting people with resources in the community.
They’ve organized the 2nd annual KymFest — a free family festival with food, music, speakers and workshops — which will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at Lakeview Park in Nampa. Chelsea is also working to launch a nonprofit support group called the For You Network, which will assist “the young, the old and the underserved.”
“I tell you, they amaze me as a family,” Kling said in a phone interview last week. “What has given them resilience is that they are a strong family unit. The support that they have for each other is wonderful.”
‘Like a nuclear bomb’
Kym Larsen’s extended family sang karaoke, danced and laughed at a KymFest fundraiser at Boise Fry Co. in Meridian recently. They looked as joyful and carefree as everyone else chowing down burgers and fries that night.
But their shock, intense feelings of loss and grief have not passed — they have just learned to live with it all.
“It affects everything,” said 30-year-old Heidi Larsen, Flowers’ middle child, a graphic designer who is now a daytime caregiver for both her mom and Donovan. “It’s kind of like a nuclear bomb that went off, and you’re always going to be affected by it.”
Heidi was previously in counseling, and she’s considering resuming it at some point. She said acting as a caregiver has been an important part of her healing process.
“It has been very cathartic for me to spend time with my nephew and my mom,” she said, wiping away tears and speaking above the din of singing.
Flowers spent the first two weeks after her daughter’s death in the hospital recovering from her wounds. Her injuries were debilitating, and she has ongoing pain from her leg and arm being slashed. She also suffered a detached retina in one eye.
In the haze of shock and sadness that followed the killing, she and Chelsea spent a lot of time on the “what ifs” of how things might have gone differently that day.
“You finally have to stop beating yourself up over what you did or didn’t do,” Flowers said.
She posted photos of Kym on her Facebook every day for months, in part because she found a whole bunch of selfies that Kym had taken with her phone. It was also a way to remember and mourn the loss of her youngest child.
A focus on children
She said they’ve all found it helpful to focus on caring for the children: Donovan, and Chelsea’s two children, Fiona Hernandez, now 4, and Robyn Hernandez, 2, who witnessed the attack.
Fiona remembers her mom and grandma being assaulted and covered in blood, and sometimes she has asked about it. She’s been through a year of counseling. Her parents have been advised that the memories will continue to resurface as she grows up, and she’ll have more questions.
“It’s hard to talk about with the little ones because they don’t understand death necessarily,” Chelsea said.
Jade Warren, who is anxious about when Donovan will start asking questions, said she’s feeling “far from OK.”
She’s stayed focused on caring for Donovan and getting through the formal adoption process. She didn’t feel like she really faced her grief until around the anniversary of Kym’s death.
“It’s hard to accept the reality that she’s gone,” Warren said. They had a unique relationship, in part because Kym lived with her for four years when she was in high school.
Donovan is a happy child who is advanced in many ways — he started walking at 8 months, communicates well with sign language and already has a full set of teeth — but he does experience some separation anxiety when his mom, grandmother or one of his aunts is out of the room.
Warren, who is unable to have children, is grateful for the opportunity to raise Donovan. She sees her baby sister in him more and more each day, from the way he arches his eyebrows to their favorite foods (ketchup and sunflower seeds).
“For me, it’s the worst sadness ... and so much bliss,” she said.
‘Kind Your Mind’
Chelsea Larsen survived most people’s worst nightmare on March 27, 2018 — an attack on her family in her own home. She decided she couldn’t let anger about it consume her.
“By dwelling on that (anger), it kind of perpetuates the violence in me,” she said.
Instead, she’s focused on how she can be a positive force in the community. Her motto is “Kind Your Mind.”
Chelsea and her fiancé, Hector Hernandez, had lived in their Nampa home for two years — and purchased it just weeks before the attack. They had many happy memories with Kym in the house, and that’s a big part of why they didn’t abandon it for a new place to live.
Instead, they tore up and rebuilt the inside.
“We knocked down walls. We put in windows. We rearranged the room structures,” she said in an interview at the house . “Instead of the sliding glass door, we put the wood door. We opened up the whole living room and kitchen area, so it just looks like a completely different house.”
“So that really helped coming back to it. Also, there’s the healing process of actually tearing stuff down and re-creating it, and having that outlet.”
Another positive development in the house: Chelsea and Hector’s third child, daughter Annah Quin Hernandez, was born there July 8. Annah is already smiling.
“She was born ready to bring some joy into this world,” Chelsea wrote on Facebook about the baby, whose name was derived from Kym’s middle name, Ann.
Chelsea said the first 12 months after the attack were a blur, as everyone was operating in “survival mode.” She’s felt more intense grief, memories and flashbacks since the anniversary of the attack than she did in the immediate aftermath.
Talking about what happened with family and friends has helped tremendously.
“It is healing to be able to talk about your story with someone who just really cares and wants to listen, and can kind of give you that space to talk,” Chelsea said. “That is what I’ve found to have been really beneficial in my healing process, being around people who want to hold space for you.”