Annie Hutton's family has celebrated their own Family Fun Day every summer since 2013, and photos from each year's event, packed full of her colourfully dressed extended family, cover the wall of a hallway in her Cranbrook home. Annie's son Chris is smiling in the 2013 photo, dressed in tie-dye, but he's noticeably absent from each subsequent year's photo.
Last month, Steven Pirko was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 11 years for the 2014 killing of Chris Ausman. Annie was one of the dozens of family members who packed the Kelowna courtroom during sentencing proceedings.
She's been back home in Cranbrook now for two weeks. In the six years since her son's death, she's finally looking forward to the future.
“I don't think I'll ever have closure. My son still doesn't come,” she said from the same home Chris spent many of his formative years.
“That six years is gone now, and now it's time to start moving forward and doing other things in our lives. Will we still celebrate his birthday? Yes. Will we still mourn him on the day that he died? Yes.
“I've found since I've gotten back (from Kelowna), that I want to do stuff. I've got more energy, I've got more concentration. It gets better every day.
“Now we can heal. We can get our peace going again,” she said. “It is a release, but it's sad. Nobody won in this. We don't get our Chris back ... Three worlds collided that night, and three worlds blew up.”
Chris touched many people in his 32 years. More than 400 people packed into Cranbrook's Eagle's Hall for his celebration of life, with more outside.
“I can't believe it's been six years, it still hurts like it was yesterday,” said Dallas Robinson, a close friend of Chris. “You've taught me a lot in life and in death, and I will forever cherish that. A spirit like yours can never be lost.”
Chris's daughter Dylynn was just 10 years old when he was murdered.
“I'm glad I got to have a daughter with him and that we get to see bits and pieces of him in her,” said Misty Couttie, Dylynn's mother. “I got the best part of him.”
Reminiscing about Chris's childhood, Annie spoke about his passion for snowboarding, skateboarding and rollerblading, among other interests.
“He thought one day he was going to dance like Michael Jackson, when he was younger. I just let him have his dream,” Annie said laughing, wiping tears from her eyes.
It took six years for her son's killer to be sentenced, but Annie has nothing but praise for the police involved in the investigation, along with Victim Impact Services and Crown prosecutor David Grabavac.
“We would get impatient some times, but then I would tell (my family), especially when (Pirko) was arrested, that some families don't get that,” she said. “If you're going through what we have gone through, be patient.”
Annie says she now wakes up a little bit stronger every morning.
“I know that's what my Chris would want, for all of us, to have that strength come back again and to live our lives the best we can."