Friday Night Lights basketball program wraps up for the summer; city, organizers say it helped curb crime


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A late-night basketball program to help reduce crime in Columbus is coming to an end for the summer, offering a huge giveaway for families.

“Obviously, one event won’t stop everything, but it will help, and that was the focus,” said Shaun Ballard, co-organizer for the Friday Night Lights basketball league.

When Ballard and Antonio Gordon started the Friday Night Light’s basketball league here in Columbus last month, they had one goal in mind: stopping the violence in their city.

So they set out to bring in as many kids and young adults as possible by offering free items and giveaways at each of their games, even paying out of pocket sometimes to do it.

“Six hundred pairs of shoes, free haircuts, 300 bookbags, we’ve reached over 1,000 kids, so to me, that’s a huge success,” said Gordon, head organizer for the Friday Night Light basketball league.

Gordon says throughout the last nine weeks, they’ve been blessed to have help from sponsors and local organizations, adding that their efforts didn’t go unnoticed in the community, either, as he received a certificate from the office of Columbus’ mayor.

“We got an email from the city stating that on Friday nights, between the hours of 6 and midnight, the crime has dropped,” Gordon said.

In fact, during the month of August alone, there were no reported shootings on Fridays between the hours of 6 p.m. to midnight.

Both Gordon and Ballard said they hope to see more uplifting events like this in their community.

“When you do something positive, people latch on to it, and they want to be a part of it, and some of them don’t ask to be named or be on camera, but it’s just something that’s positive, and that’s kind of what we want to focus on,” Ballard said.

While the program has ended, another basketball event is being planned for Sept. 25.

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