LA CROSSE, Wis. - It's been just more than a year since a La Crosse woman was shot and killed in her apartment.
Saturday, family and friends came together to celebrate 20-year-old Sara Hougom's life and to encourage awareness and raise money for anti-violence efforts.
Hougom's death was a result of a random act of violence that sent shock waves through the community.
Family and friends hope the first annual Sara Softball tournament will help turn a tragedy into something positive.
On a clear and beautiful sunny day, cheers of a friendly softball game are meant for more than just the crack of the bat.
"I miss her," said Sherry Hougom, Sara's mother. "I miss my Sara."
Sherry said life has never been the same.
"Emotional roller coaster," said Sherry. "Good days and sad days, and when I have sad days, I try and surround myself with family."
Scott Hogan also lost a piece of his heart that day.
"She was my best friend," said Hogan. "She was the love of my life."
He and his fraternity at UW-La Crosse helped organize the Sara Softball tournament to raise money for anti-violence efforts as a way to honor her memory.19924032
"It means a lot to me," said Hogan. "It means a lot in knowing that Sara's name is on this shirt and everyone's wearing it, and it's memorializing her."
Friends and family also hope to prevent another tragedy like Sara's from happening.
"If you save one person from making a bad choice, it affects hundreds," said Sherry. "It's such a rippling affect."
Instead, they hope to help spread Sara's kind spirit.
"Sara always, always brought out the best in everyone in everything," said Sherry. "She was so positive and we want to keep that going. We want to have that message spread throughout this community."
Eight teams participated in the tournament.
All of the teams had some connection to Sara, whether it was family or friends like the UW-La Crosse wrestlers and even the La Crosse Police Department that handled the case.
Police officers said playing in this tournament was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.
"It was kind of a crime that made no sense," said Lt. Pat Hogan of the La Crosse Police Department. "It was an innocent victim just in her apartment, and it hit not only the community very hard, but the police department and the police officers in the department . One homicide in the city of La Crosse in a year is too many."
Organizers said they hope to make the tournament an annual event.
The tournament was also a charity event.
Final numbers aren't in yet, but the money is going to the La Crosse Interfaith Justice and Peace as well as UW-L's Violence Prevention Office.
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