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Sheba Turk / Eyewitness News
Email: sturk@wwltv.com | Twitter: @shebaturk

NEWORLEANS-- Children who are victims and mothers who are mourning the loss of a child -- sadly those are stories we tell a lot in this city.

We have to remember the children who are still alive and the mothers who are working to help them have successful futures, despite any obstacles.

That's exactly what one mother in the Lower 9th Ward is doing. Tonya Smith has more than enough she could complain about, but she's too focused on providing for her children to notice.

'A lot of my coworkers asked when everything was going on with my 3-year-old,' Smith said, ''How can you come in here and have a smile on your face? 'I tell them I can't let everything get me down.'

Smith gets through everything with that positive attitude. She is the mother of 15-year-old T.J., 10-year-old Tahj and 3-year-old Trey, who just went through chemotherapy to battle a brain tumor.

'I managed to get through it with a smile on my face,' she said.

Smith conveys that same undying optimism when it comes to her Lower 9th Ward neighborhood. She lives in one of the houses provided by actor Brad Pitts' Make It Right Foundation and loves it -- but just blocks away is the blight, an undeniable reminder of Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

'That still is an eyesore,' Smith said. 'You don't want to have all those vacant and empty lots all over the place; its not safe.'

She drives 15 to 20 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store. And until the area gets a park she likes, she drives all the way to City Park when the kids want to play.

'It's not an inconvenience for me because I like to bring them somewhere they can enjoy themselves,' she said.

Smith looks past all the things her neighborhood is missing and insists her job isn't any harder than parents living in areas that have recovered more quickly and have more resources.

'They have to go through the same things raising their kids as i do,' she said.

Though she looks to the bright side, Smith does worry for her three young sons, whose father lives in another city, even though they have lots of male relatives to keep them on track.

'They are already stereotyped to be these bad influences, but I keep them sheltered,' she said. She also wants to protect them from all of the violence going on in the city.

'There's always a concern when you see more crime in your area that youre really not used to, but then again crime is everywhere,' she said.

That's why one church is so important to Smith and her kids. She calls St. David Catholic Church on St. Claude her safe zone. She says it helps her and her kids not be afraid despite everything going on around them.

It seems to be working because despite the chemo and the crime, the hassle of going to the grocery store and the park. When she looks far into the future shes sees nothing but the best for her three boys.

'I picture them being very successful young men,' she said, 'taking over the world.'

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