GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WOOD) — A local sports organization is working to curb gun violence through basketball.
All-In Sports of Grand Rapids is hosting a three-day event that they’re calling “In the Park with the Pros.” Things kicked off on Tuesday afternoon.
“Basketball is the bait. This provides the platform for us to give conversation, give encouragement and just come together,” said All-In Sports Director Dominic Shannon.
Local youth can attend the event and meet and train with professional players from European basketball leagues. They can also work with the director of one of Europe’s top basketball training programs, The Process Basketball.
Tremaine Dalton, owner of The Process Basketball, says they operate out of Paris, France. He says his clients have made it to teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Clippers, ACB Spain, Switzerland Top Level and several others.
The organizers say they also want to use this event to address gun violence happening in Grand Rapids neighborhoods, as the city counts 20 homicides so far this year.
“I’m from right around the corner on Dallas Avenue and Alexander Street and the same gun violence was going on in my generation as well,” Dalton said. “It’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on in these streets and if we have the power to make some change, we’re going to use it.”
In addition to the homicides, there have also been several non-fatal shootings in Grand Rapids. Police report at least two of those incidents involved children, who were innocent bystanders shot and injured.
“We’ve seen sports be the rallying point for a lot of trying times, especially now with the Black Lives Matter movement. We see that in the NBA bubble, currently. We’re just wanting to come out and give the kids hope,” Shannon said.
Both Shannon and Dalton, both natives of Grand Rapids, say being able to show young people that there is another path in life and lead by example can make a huge difference.
“A lot of kids, they don’t feel like they have a future necessarily and they don’t know the way to get to that next step, and us coming together is that first step in making that transition to college or pro basketball,” said Dalton. “Basketball is a start, but it’s so many other things too. Whether it’s art, whether it’s music, we want to implement so many things for the future to just really give kids an opportunity to become whoever they want to be.”
“In the Park with the Pros” organizers will host the final day of the camp on Thursday at Martin Luther King Park. The group will be joined by a gun expert who will answer questions about the importance of responsible and legal gun ownership. The event is from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is completely free of charge.