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Aurora to remember theater shooting tragedy with healing activities, volunteer opportunities

This Saturday will mark one year since a gunman opened fire at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora -- a tragedy that took the lives of twelve people and left seventy more wounded.

The city of Aurora will remember that day with a slate of events that includes a community gathering, healing activities such as mental-health counseling and yoga, and community service projects, including sorting donations for a food bank and landscaping at the new Aurora Strong Community Resilience Center.

Aurora public relations manager Lori MacKenzie sent us this statement about the reasoning behind the events planned for Aurora's Day of Remembrance, to take place on July 20:

We recognize people process tragedies differently and need very different things. That's why we've created a multifaceted day dedicated to meaningful remembrance, continued healing and positive community action.

The day will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a gathering and ceremony at the Aurora Municipal Center, which is across the street from the Century theater where the shooting took place.

At 9 a.m., participants can take part in healing activities at the municipal center or leave the site to volunteer at various locations, including the Food Bank of the Rockies and Project C.U.R.E. A blood drive will be held at the municipal center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit the city of Aurora's website to sign up to volunteer.

The Aurora Strong Community Resilience Center, located at 1298 Peoria Street in Aurora, will also host events throughout the day, according to director Grace Zolnosky. Participants can volunteer to refurbish the center's garden or take part in activities that include yoga, drumming and making paper cranes. Visitors can also choose to see a counselor for free -- a benefit that the center offers regularly.

The center opened for victims of the theater shooting and their families last month -- and expanded its reach to the general public with a grand opening celebration last week. The brainchild of the 7/20 Recovery Committee, the center's purpose is to be a long-term resource for shooting survivors and anyone else suffering from trauma-related stress.

"Obviously, the catalyst for getting the center open was the survivors," Zolnosky says. "But there are so many people affected by the ripple effect of the shooting."

The center is open weekdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free one-on-one and group counseling is available, thanks to donations that should sustain the center for eighteen months; Zolnosky says she hopes to secure more funding to keep the center sustainable for much longer.

Other offerings include meditative yoga, art, music and stress-management classes and a women's support group led by Megan Sullivan, whose brother Alex died in the theater shooting, that meets on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. A faith-based group will meet for the first time tonight at 6:30 p.m. The topic? "Where was God on 7/20?"

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For more information or to schedule a counseling session, call 303-739-1580.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes's attorneys confirm that he was the gunman in the Aurora theater shooting."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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