- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

James L. “Sonny” Buchanan wanted every child to have a chance at getting an education and to succeed in life. Today, his sister Vickie Snider is making his wish come true.

Mrs. Snider founded Sonny’s Kids Foundation in 2002, days after her brother was gunned down by twice-convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad.

On Thursday night, several hours after Muhammad was given six consecutive life sentences in the sniper shootings, Mrs. Snider awarded, in her brother’s name, $8,500 in scholarships to three local high school students.

“It’s been a place for me to stick all of my grief,” Mrs. Snider said of her work with the foundation.

Mr. Buchanan, 39, was the sniper’s second victim. He was fatally shot Oct. 3, 2002, while mowing grass at the Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda. Mrs. Snider founded Sonny’s Kids Foundation days later.

Since then, the foundation has given out about $38,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs in Silver Spring and Germantown and Northwest High School in Germantown.

The foundation also has given $6,000 to the Mark Twain School in Rockville, a high school for students with social emotional disabilities. The school created a General Educational Development center with the funds.

“[Muhammad] did not crush us. We will go on, and we will do good things in Sonny’s memory,” said Mrs. Snider, 47.

Muhammad, 45, is now back on death row in Virginia, where in 2003 he was convicted of killing Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station Oct. 9, 2002. Muhammad could be executed three years from now.

A monthlong trial in Rockville ended with a second conviction for Muhammad.

Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, now 21, shot 13 persons in three weeks in the Washington area in October 2002, killing 10 and wounding three.

Mrs. Snider does not relish Muhammad’s death but says that “with everything he’s done, he deserves it.”

For years, Mr. Buchanan was active in the Boys & Girls Clubs and he “believed that everyone should be given an opportunity in life to succeed and have a chance to earn an education, regardless of background,” the foundation’s Web site states.

The family held a golf tournament fundraiser in November 2002. Their next golf fundraiser is scheduled for September in Gaithersburg.

Mrs. Snider on Thursday awarded a $5,000 scholarship to Delia Frazer, a senior at Blake High School in Silver Spring. Delia was one of 10 high school students who entered an essay contest sponsored by Sonny’s Kids Foundation.

Delia will attend Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., where she will study pre-law and elementary education.

Hilda Knuckles of Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg received a $2,500 scholarship, and Alexzandra Bardwell-Morgan of Laurel High School received a $1,000 scholarship.

“The support from the Sonny’s Kids Foundation honors the legacy of a man who cared deeply about children,” said Dawn Kirstaetter, an area director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. “We consider ourselves very fortunate that his family continues to carry his torch.”

Mrs. Snider is the only relative of any of the sniper victims who attended both of Muhammad’s trials and Malvo’s trial in Chesapeake, Va., in their entirety.

“It’s very hard for me to talk about the pain they inflicted and the grief we still feel,” Mrs. Snider said. “We feel it every day, but we do move on. God gives you that strength to persevere, and you try to turn it into something good.”

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