INDIANAPOLIS — A youth football league is hosting its annual “Stop the Violence” tournament this weekend on the near east side of Indianapolis.
It’s hosted by the Municipal Gardens Dad's Club Football League, organized in 1956 and dedicated to helping the youth of the greater Indianapolis community. They have about 15 coaches and 120 kids in the club.
The annual tournament was started five years ago in memory of one of Anthony King’s players, who was killed by gun violence.
“We wanted to start something for the community, so they realize that us, the youth football community, is affected by gun violence often,” said King, the president of MG Dad’s Club. “It’s tragic. It’s tough and it sucks, but we have to let the world know we are aware.”
This year, the tournament is honoring former player Donovan Barnett. The 18-year-old was killed at an east side gas station last May.
King coached Barnett when he was younger.
“He was very respectful. It showed on the football field. He would do whatever it takes to make sure everybody is OK,” King said.
More than 500 kids signed up for the tournament with 18 teams competing.
Organizers hope that through the sport, kids learn respect, unity and leadership.
“It really teaches you how to be a teammate and how to be accountable and get through adversity fast. There is no way you don’t grow in football,” King said.
Many of the coaches also become mentors for the players, something King knows firsthand from playing in the club when he was younger.
“We are just doing what we can do to keep it going. What those [coaches] did for me, I just want to do for other kids,” King said.
For mom, Chiante Taylor, the tournament holds a special meaning for her family after losing a 16-year-old cousin to gun violence a couple of years ago. He was also a football player and inspired her son to start playing.
“So it means a lot to me that they put a tournament together to strictly recognize life,” Taylor said.
She is grateful for events like this that bring the community together for something positive.
“It’s each one, teach one. We’re all the same. We’re all rooting for the same thing — change, growth and development for our community — so let’s do it as one,” she said.
On Sunday, the tournament will host the championship games starting at 1:15 p.m. at Arsenal Tech High School. Donavon’s father will also be there to present the trophies.
Everyone is invited to come and cheer on the teams.
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