INDIANAPOLIS — "When your mom tells you to do something, your dad tells you to do something, it's like, oh well, they don't understand, they're old. But when your peers say something, it sticks," said Anthony Beverly, Director of Stop the Violence Indianapolis.
Raising awareness about gun violence is a big task for communities across Indiana. Stop the Violence Indianapolis teamed up with IU Football in hopes that their influence will inspire our youth to put the guns down.
On March 29th, 2020, 17-year-old Da'Mario McCullough was killed, along with another person, in a triple shooting on Emerson Avenue, a difficult loss still hard for friends Cam Jordan and Jeff Utzinger to fathom.
"We were great friends. I hung out on the weekends and things like that. He was just a great guy. Really fun to be around," said Cam Jordan, IU Wide Receiver #89. "Losing him was definitely hard, especially during the covid era of only being at home."
"I just remembered when the news came out, we got a text from our coaches saying we were going to have a prayer service at the school," said Utzinger.
Da'Mario was a junior at Cathedral High School, a star on and off the field.
"We had the opportunity to speak up at a time like this when gun violence is on the rise," said Utzinger.
Two years later and his Cathedral football teammates now play for IU, and they're championing a new initiative challenging our youth to rise above gun violence.
"IU football team is going all across social media. All of the players that are participating have a reach of over 500 thousand," said Beverly.
“Team Up for Peace,” is a collaboration between IU football, Hoosiers for Good, and Stop the Violence in Indianapolis, using the power of social media to reach our youth in a unique way to encourage them to make better choices.
"Sports have always been a way to get messaging done. They have a level of influence, and we want to help encourage them to use that influence for the better," said Beverly.
Beverly said “Team Up for Peace” has also caught the attention of nearly 20 high school basketball teams across Indianapolis.
"We had an event, and at the event, we brought them in and had a conversation around the violence in the city, and the high school players responded," said Beverly.
"When I was in high school, my role models were college and professional athletes. As I grew, I realized that even though you may not see that many on the field as much, I can still make a big impact, especially in the Indianapolis area," said Jordan.
Beverly said they need more volunteers to go to the high schoolers' games this season to help spread the message. To volunteer, contact 317-692-9929.
Cam and Jeff told Amber now that their season is over, they plan to get more hands-on in their efforts. They want to meet with young people and provide the same positive activities that helped them get to where they are now.