BY ANDREAS BUTLER
It was a timely event. The second annual “Gone Too Soon, Your Life Matters Basketball Tournament’’ held on July 9 in Daytona Beach was an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to violence and for local youth and police officers to hang out together in a positive environment.
VITAS Healthcare of Volusia-Flagler County, Daytona Beach Leisure Services Department and the Daytona Beach Police Department teamed up for the event held at the Midtown Cultural & Educational Center.
“We want to acknowledge our youths whether it’s violence or terminally ill. We all have lost family members too soon. This is an opportunity for us to bring the community together,” Sandra Nobles-Milton, senior general manager of Vitas Healthcare, said at the event.
She added, “Anytime that you have an opportunity to get local businesses, government and other entities together and provide something positive for our children, it’s a great thing. It’s an opportunity for us all to grow and heal together.’’
The daylong event included both boys and girls basketball tournaments. The winning boys team later squared off with police officers in a friendly game.
Along with the basketball games, VITAS had a specially trained bereavement team on site to provide information and help those who were grieving.
The local event came just days after a horrific week of tragedies, including the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and five officers in Dallas.
At the Daytona event, city leaders stressed the need for community and law enforcement cooperation to stop violence and prevent crime.
“We all want peace in our community, but we cannot have it without justice. We let things go on. We have people that know who have committed crimes but people won’t tell. If we see things happening, we need to notify authorities. We need confidence in our police department and we need to be able to communicate with them,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood noted, “There are too many people dying in the streets.
We must stop it. There are too many crimes going on with no one saying anything.”
The 2012 murder of Rayshad Mitchell, who was found dead near his family home on Verdell Street, was mentioned. The 23-year-old died from a gunshot wound. His death remains unsolved. There is a $25,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to solving this case.
Mitchell’s mother, Jennifer Chord, spoke at the event.
“It’s just hard. His birthday is on the 21st of this month. Most people don’t understand what I go through. I think some haven’t spoken up because it’s not their child. This could happen to anybody.
If anyone knows anything, I ask you to speak up,” she urged told those in attendance.
Chitwood remarked, “In this one case, we had at least 20 witnesses but still no one has come forward.
No comments were made in regards to recent incidents between law enforcement and the Black community.
“We don’t want to get into that. Here at VITAS, we just want to let the community know that we are here to provide them with a service,” Nobles-Milton said.
About last week’s tragedies, Chitwood only stated, “Unfortunately there are things going on between law enforcement and their communities which isn’t what it’s about. That’s extremism.”
ABOUT THE CHAMPIONS
The champion of the girls tournament was the Sharks. The team is made up of girls from the Atlantic High School basketball team.
They are Da’Jhai White, Zaria Pope, Symara Moore, La’Cheri Postell, Cecaria Bankhead, Shania Pope, Jon’Keria Patterson and Heaven Gould.
Atlantic High assistant coaches Roy Lee, Mike Ebert and Erica Babcock coached the team at the July 9 event.
The boys championship team was coached by Johnson and Dwayne Myers. The players included Jordan Sears (Atlantic High), Kevin Beans (Atlantic), Brieon Beans (Mainland), D’Warren Bolden (Atlantic), Johnny Brown (Mainland), Devin Devarse (Seabreeze) and Devon Robinson (Atlantic).
Following the basketball tournament, a block party was held in Cypress Park. Free swimming and free swim lessons also were given at the Cypress Aquatic Center.