COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Friends, Antonio Gordon and Shaun Ballard have a vision for Friday nights in Columbus this summer. They’re taking steps to make that vision a reality.
“It’s a lot of senseless violence going on. So we’re just basically trying to do our part,” said Ballard.
The two friends, along with others, are organizing what they’re calling “Friday Night Lights.” They said it’s a basketball league with the goal of stopping the violence plaguing Columbus. Both grew up in the capital city, have kids in Columbus, and want to do something to try to help.
“Everybody’s trying to do their part. Obviously, one event won’t stop it, but it’ll help,” said Ballard.
They’re planning on July 9th being the first night of the league. It’ll start around 6 p.m. and the teams will be made up of those who are 18-years-old and up. Ballard and Gordon said that’s because they know young adults are often caught up in the trouble going on.
“A lot of the crime goes on between that 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. range when the sun starts going down, stores start closing and you’re looking for something to do,” said Gordon. “We just want to present that opportunity for you to have somewhere to go as opposed to going to a bar, riding around, looking for something to do, something to get into.”
There will also be opportunities and activities for people of all ages. They said this won’t just be any league. With the help of some professional athletes who are originally from central Ohio, they’ll be giving out about 400 brand-new pairs of shoes to kids.
“If we can save somebody’s son’s life that night, I feel like I’ve done my part,” said Gordon.
They also expect the Columbus Division of Police to have a team. Officer Anthony Johnson is helping put it together. The latest in the group’s organizing efforts came as the city hit 100 homicides.
“We cannot have any more names added to that list, we can’t have another number, we can’t have a 101,” said Officer Johnson. “So if there’s anything we can do as people together, not community members, not police officers, but as people together to prevent that, then that’s what we need to do, and this is that.”
Plans are for the league to run from July 9th to August 27th. They’re also planning on having free health screenings, food trucks, and bounce houses for kids.