On Friday, 15-year-old Issa Jeylani was shot and killed while he was practicing soccer with his friends and coaches. Issa was a member of the Hilltop Tigers soccer team that Starfish supporters helped get jerseys and bikes for. (He's pictured above in that jersey. He's in the center, with another boy's right arm draped around him.)
In August 2020, Columbus Division of Police Officer Sean Taylor asked for our help getting bikes and soccer equipment for the children of Wedgewood. He'd gotten to know Coach Siyat Mohamed and his brother, Aden, during his patrol duties and saw them trying to help make things better for the kids they were coaching.
Officer Taylor thought we'd get maybe 15 bikes and a few balls for them, but you came through in a big way, with 75 bikes given away that year, a bunch of equipment, and enough money for new jerseys to make them feel like a real team. In addition, Bikes & Badges was born from that request. We've since given away more than 600 bikes. It's been such a beautiful journey for us and it's created so much joy across the city for so many.
It is devastating that from this wonderful soccer program with the intention of keeping kids away from gang life, tragedy has struck. We send our deepest condolences to Issa's family and loved ones. The Hilltop Tigers are part of the non-profit MY Project USA, led by Zerqa Abid. She has been trying to find an indoor site for the soccer team to play at for quite some time in order to avoid this very kind of situation. MY Project USA is working to make the West Side a better place and make a difference in the lives of these young people. Please check out their Facebook page or website and consider making a donation in Issa's memory.