CLEVELAND – A candlelight vigil in Cleveland on Sunday night kicked off Police Week -- an entire week devoted to the men and women that serve. It's a time that is especially difficult for the families of fallen police officers.
In an Action News exclusive report, Denise Dufala got a first-hand look of what life is like for the family of Wayne Leon, a 32-year-old Cleveland police officer killed in the line of duty in the summer of 2000. Wayne's widow, Grace Leon, is using the pain of that tragedy to make it her mission to help others in similar situations.
It's a picture that is etched in our minds -- an army of blue burying officer Wayne Leon two years ago after he was shot to death during a routine traffic stop. Grace Leon (pictured, above) has the same picture in a special cupboard at home, devoted to her late husband.
"A lot of this stuff is for the children," she said. "I don't particularly like to look in here."
Almost two years later, the pain is still fresh for the mother of three, raising her children without their father.
"When I see families -- intact families -- it does weigh heavy on my heart that we don't have that anymore, but our life is different now, and we will do the best with what we have been given," Grace said.
The Leon family does its best to keep Wayne's memory alive. In the children's bedrooms, there are permanent reminders of their father in the form of murals that the talented artist drew himself.
"He was very artistic and asked them what they would like drawn on their walls, so he came up with the superheroes," Grace said. "He just drew these all freehand. Spider-man was his favorite."
Grace has had to become a "supermom" in many ways, but she's not bitter or angry.
"I always try not to be angry," she said. "I try not to be a bitter person because my children will pick up on that."
Grace also has a new support system. She said that she draws strength from a group called C.O.P.S. -- Ohio Concerns of Police Survivors.
"We've all shared that same knock on the door or shared that same loss, that same experience," she said.
Grace and the other wives in C.O.P.S. have come up with a new way to help future survivors, and they need your help.
They've come up with a design for a customized license plate that has a badge and a rose on it -- the symbol of a fallen officer. If 1,000 people commit to buying it, the state will approve the design with a portion of the money going to fallen officers' families.