BY ANDREAS BUTLER
For years, VITAS Healthcare of Volusia-Flagler County has found a way to honor those who have lost their lives to violence and their families.
This year’s “Gone Too Soon: Your Life Matters” basketball tournament will take place on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mainland High School, 1255 W. International Speedway Blvd. The event is free and open to the public.
“We want to bring remembrance to those who lost their lives through violence or through police violence, which is why we are partnering with the Daytona Beach Police Department to bring unity and everyone together,” Shanda Nobles-Milton, VITAS’ general manager, told the Daytona Times this week.
For boys and girls
The tournament will have 10 teams (six boys, four girls) made up of students in local high and middle schools as well as those from the Daytona Beach Leisure Services program, ages 14-18.
The boys’ championship team will play against the police.
The police department and Leisure Services department also are partners for the event.
The event will include several speakers, including those who have lost loved ones to violence or police violence. Daytona Beach Police Chief Capri also will speak.
Too many lost
Daytona Beach has had nine violent-related deaths this year alone.
“One is always too many. It’s unfortunate that we have that many. All homicides mostly have some type of violence to it,” Capri told the Times.
“We’ve cleared most of them all but about three. We have leads and we are working on them.
We’re committed. I still feel that our community is safe overall,” he related.
‘We are one team’
The tournament is also about building bridges in the community, including with law enforcement.
“This is part of our basic foundation of community engagement. We are a part of the community and we are partners with the community. We are one team. This is a great opportunity to get our officers out in the community and working with the kids in the community. We get to show that the police are human. We like basketball. It’s for a good cause. It will be a great and fun community event,” Capri added.
All entities involved in the tournament wants the community to come out and denounce violence, remember those lost to violence and support the youth playing basketball.
Percy Williamson, the city’s Leisure Services director, told the Times, “We appreciate being able to assist VITAS with this event. They are doing something for the youth in our community and it’s always good for us to be able to be a part of something in this manner.’’
Nobles-Milton noted, “Anytime you have youth doing something positive that should always be supported. I think having the opportunity to see the police connect with the community and the community watching the event is worth seeing.’’
Helping the hurting
VITAS Healthcare provides end-of-life hospice and palliative care for adult and pediatric patients with life-limiting illnesses.
Those who attend the event also can learn about VITAS Healthcare’s community bereavement and volunteer opportunities.
“From the VITAS perspective, being involved in community care, we realized that a lost a loved one whether through violence or other ways hurts. It continues to hurt long after the ordeal is gone. I think this gives kids an opportunity to play for their lost loved ones. I think this creates a different atmosphere and excitement that normally won’t be acknowledged,” Nobles-Milton shared.
More teams, interest
Feedback of the event has been positive in previous years.
“I think it gets better each and every year. We get more teams. We are getting more and more interest from the community. We feel like it’s really taking off in the community,” said Nobles-Milton.
She noted that in the past, the event has included a block party. That won’t happen this year.
In previous years, the basketball tournament took place at the Midtown Cultural & Educational Center. The tournament was move to Mainland High this year to accommodate more games.