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Coaches vs. Crime event addresses St. Louis gun violence, honors lives lost

Basketball coaches, police, and families of gun violence victims gathered at the 2nd Annual Coaches vs. Crime event on Saturday to pay tribute to slain athletes.

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Competitors often look to their coaches for guidance through adversity. 

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of athletes and their family members gathered at the Soldan International Studies High School gymnasium to listen to coaches help them through adversity of the hardest kind. 

"This is unlike any basketball game you've ever been to," Khaleel Munir told the crowd before tip-off of the 3 p.m. game. 

The purpose of the second annual Coaches vs. Crime Fundraiser Basketball Shootout was to assist grieving families with mental support, pay tribute to slain athletes and prevent more lives from being lost.

"This is about us being more responsible and also honoring and remembering those who were tragically taken from us," he said. 

Munir founded the Willie Davis Sports Foundation to provide an outlet for families grieving athletes who were shot and killed in St. Louis. 

Four families came forward to receive special plaques that honored the memory of their loved ones who were shot and killed.  

"Those shirts that you're all playing in, you all knew the guys that you're all playing for," he said. 

The coaches knew them too. 

Anton Maclin coached Isis Mahr before she was shot and killed in November 2021 at age 19. 

"Isis and I had a lot of tough conversations, but I watched her grow," Maclin said. "And somebody so full of life, she was about to go win in life."

Maclin became the kind of figure in her life that her dad, Atif Mahr, will never forget. When Mahr saw Maclin in the gym hallway, he wrapped him up in an emotional embrace. 

"This has always touched home for me," Mahr said. 

Mahr is now raising money for the Isis Aaliyah Mahr Gun Violence Prevention Fund to help other young students finish his daughter's dream of becoming a nurse. 

He said the event helped transform his outlook.

"You walk in saddened because you know you're here only due to the loss of a child," he said. "When you leave out, you're refreshed because you enjoy, for me, seeing the sport my daughter liked to play, basketball. So I kind of lived vicariously through these kids like her."

Coaches at the event also helped mentor youth toward conflict resolution. 

"No dispute is worth losing a life," Maclin said.

Afterwards, organizers passed out hundreds of free gun locks and police officers demonstrated how to use them safely. 

Leslie Byrd celebrated what would've been her son's 21st birthday with balloons and a birthday cake outside the gym doors. 

"My son was actually coming to come and get my car and go and play basketball. This is what he loved to do," she said. "He was a scholar athlete, and I witnessed him being murdered for no reason."

Byrd smiled and handed out hugs, and did everything she could to put a smile on the faces of people around her.

"People say I might be grieving the wrong way. But is there any particular way to grieve?" 

She said part of her purpose now is to honor her son's memory and guide the next generation. 

"It's what I have to do because I know I'm inspiring other people," she said. "I'm working with the youth who is looking into my energy, so why not?"

Behind her smile, she acknowledged the lasting pain. 

"I'm hurting, but I would rather help people heal," she said. "I'm not hurting expecting other people to feel how I feel. If anything, let's be on one accord, let's comfort one another, let's have compassion more with one another, and lead in love instead of getting it back in blood."

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