Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, a hero is just a normal, everyday kid who shows unbelievable courage and selflessness on the spur of the moment. Zaevion Dobson is a hero like this.
On the night of December 17, 2015, the 15-year-old football player sacrificed his life to protect others. He was headed to a friend's house to play video games when he was caught, along with several other innocent bystanders, in the crossfire of a gang shootout. The jokester teammates idolized and teachers adored could have run, but he didn't. He used his body to protect several small girls, and gave his life in the process.
When they heard his story, Jyoto.info's Lift Life Foundation knew they had to help. In the wake of extreme tragedy, they wanted to make sure Zaevion's memory lived on. Renovating the school's gym for #24 became their mission.
The gym of Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee was in need of some TLC. The underfunded inner-city school receives no money for athletics, and relies on game receipts and hustling coaches to make ends meet. They take great care of the equipment they do have, but their taped-together weights, worn pulleys, ancient treadmills, and machines held together with shoestrings showed they were in desperate need of an overhaul. The revamping was about more than 14 palettes of weight equipment; the 10-day labor of love was about injecting a sense of pride and hope into the student body.
The weight room at Fulton isn't just a place for young football players to get big. It's used by all sports teams, the PE and wellness classes, and the staff, and it means something different to each person who sets foot in it.
"A lot of kids see athletics as a way to a better life," says Jody Wright, athletic director at Fulton High School. "They see a lot of their former classmates who play on TV on Saturday, and that's appealing and enticing. Athletics to this community plays a big role."
Now, they'll have a safe space where they can better themselves.
The floor-to-ceiling tribute wall to Zaevion encourages students to live as he did and to emulate his valor, outgoing personality, and altruism. The gym encapsulates the "dream big" attitude of the young man who loved the X's and O's of football, but loved his community even more.
This is the second weight room transformation led by the Lift Life Foundation—their first was in Firth, Idaho—but it's definitely not the last. We're already hard at work on our third project in Anderson, Indiana. If giving young athletes a leg up in life is as exciting for you as it is for us, you can donate to the Lift Life Foundation, or to be considered for a future renovation.