Baskets Not Bullets: Three CPS Students Raise Funds for Windy City Hoops

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This week we are excited to welcome CPS 7th graders Cole Tansey, Drew Donohue, and Jalen Harris to discuss their movement to be a part of the gun violence solution in Chicago, Baskets Not Bullets.


The Beginning 

What started as a few students” middle school community project at Oscar Mayer Magnet School earlier this year has now become a growing Chicago student initiative to raise awareness of gang-related gun violence and help direct city kids to playing sports as a safe, positive alternative. Baskets Not Bullets: “Off the street and onto the court” was started by 7th graders, Cole Tansey, Drew Donohue and Jalen Harris who were all moved by the gang execution of Tyshawn Lee, a 9 year old killed on his way home from playing basketball with his friends.  Jalen was family friends with Tyshawn’s family and attended his funeral which impacted the three boys deeply.  They decided that kids like themselves needed to be part of the solution to gun violence, that kids would listen more to other kids.

Kids always think ‘this is really sad, but there’s nothing we can do.’ But we’re never too young to try to make a difference. This is too great a city not to try.
— 7th Grader Cole Tansey

Each of the three boys is devoted to sports and believes that can help keep kids off the streets:  Cole loves basketball; Drew loves baseball and Jalen loves football.   So they committed to supporting the Chicago Parks District program, Windy City Hoops (WCH). WCH was started two years ago by basketball legend, Isiah Thomas and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to provide mentors and a safe haven for teenagers to play sports on weekend evenings in neighborhoods throughout the city.   To date, the boys have raised close to $4,000 for Windy City Hoops through their GoFundMe page and by selling Baskets Not Bullets t-shirts and wristbands.

I’m proud to be a part of something that could make a difference in the world and especially in my city.
— 7th Grader Jalen Harris

Community Outreach

To raise awareness, the boys are traveling to schools around the city to talk to other middle-schoolers and present the Mikey O documentary, For the Love of Mom which interviews two mothers who lost children to gang-related gun violence.  The three boys believe that kids throughout the city need to directly see and feel the impact of gun-violence on families up close if the gang shootings are to stop.  At their last presentation at Jose De Diego School in Humboldt Park, they were also joined by parents of a former CPS high school graduate who was shot and killed, as well as the director of Windy City Hoops. They concluded their school program by showing a video of Windy City Hoops and handing out flyers for kids to sign up.  They got high-fives by the students.

The Future 

Their Baskets Not Bullets campaign was recently covered by CBS News. Allstate Corporation highlighted them as VIPS for WE Day in Chicago, a inspirational day-long event for students who volunteer their time to their community.  Also, the boys started a Put The Guns Down social media campaign over Memorial Day weekend.  They are looking to expand their Baskets Not Bullets program to schools throughout the city by ultimately getting kids from other schools to join them and show the program to their own schools in order to reach more students throughout the city.  They also plan to present their program at other Chicago events geared toward teens.  They will be starting a corporate sponsorship program to raise larger donations as their program expands.

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It feels really good to know we are helping people and making a difference in the lives of others.
— 7th Grader Drew Donohue

In Chicago, well over 1,000 people have been killed by gun violence in 2016. Be a part of the solution. Donate via GoFundMe here

Jennie Scheerer