Camp 24 will be different

Todd Kelly Jr.’s Camp 24 provides meaningful instruction in soccer fundamentals to young people.

And a shirt.

And an unforgettable message.

Former University of Tennessee defense attorney Kelly and several of his friends plan to make Saturday, July 9th a very special time for contestants ages 7-14. The half-day camp includes how-to-do’s, development exercises, and no-pads competitions tailored for fit.

Camp 24 will be held at the Sansom Sports Complex, 234 Dale Avenue in Knoxville, adjacent to the Fort Sanders community, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sign up here.

The camp fee is $60. Here’s how it differs from this gathering: Proceeds will be donated to the Emerald Youth and Zaevion Dobson Memorial Foundations.

Zaevion Dobson

“I was born in Knoxville and now earn my living in my hometown (Wealth Management Associate for The Trust Company of Tennessee). I want to give back to my community and help young football players achieve their dreams,” said Kelly.

“The camp’s name honors the memory of the late Zaevion Dobson, who gave his life to save friends from gunfire.”

Twenty-four was Dobson’s jersey number as a sophomore at Fulton High School.

“The Emerald Youth Foundation will be a beneficiary of the camp due to their track record of leading youth on and off the field.”

Here comes the bonus part for campers:

On December 17, 2015, happy young people warmed up for the Christmas holidays on the front porch of the Dobson residence in Lonsdale. Drive-by gunmen fired through the neighborhood. The students, who no one knew were associated with gangsters, suddenly found themselves in the line of fire.

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Zaevion, 15, a good guy with guts for his age, surfaced two girls to protect them with his body. When the shooting stopped, Faith Gordon told him he could get up.

But he did not do it. He was the only one who had been hit. He died. Many of us felt the pain.

I remembered something my grandmother once said, that true character is revealed when the need is greatest, when times are tough. I believe incoming bullets create a crisis. Zaevion had a choice. He could have escaped. He risked his life to save others. He was a hero.

Rob Black, a Fulton High coach for 30 years, said Dobson was “a fine, fine young man who was a success story”.

Black wanted to “celebrate the impact he’s made on his peers.”

Dobson’s brother Zack said it was the teenager’s dream to become a really good player or coach.

Dobson’s mother Zenobia said Zaevion could “light up a room”.

Fulton students and church friends held a candlelight vigil. They used candles to outline 24, his soccer number.

Knoxville created a recreation park in his honor. ESPN presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. President Barack Obama wiped his eyes when he used Zaevion’s death in a gun control speech.

There has been no valid criticism of the Knoxville Police Department. The investigations were premeditated. Three suspects were arrested. A rap video they filmed months earlier was part of the evidence. There was talk of gang rivalry.

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword sentenced Christopher Drone Bassett to life in prison plus 35 years in prison; Richard Gregory Williams III up to 143 years; and Kipling Deshawn Colbert to 109 years. Conviction and penalties stood up to appeal.

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Todd Kelly was deeply affected by all of this.

I wanted to make sure Zaevion’s legacy didn’t end on this porch. I felt the urgency to represent him so his name can live on.”

The Kelly name lives on. Todd Jr. was a second-generation volunteer (two interceptions before Baker Mayfield in Oklahoma). Todd Sr. was an all-American defensive end, NFL first round draft choice.

When young Kelly spoke of “a talented young man who had such a bright future,” it made an impression. When he changed his soccer number from 6 to Zaevion’s 24, some of us said wow. Numbers are often very special, very personal.

Todd said his change was a token of appreciation.

“With the platform I was given, the thought of keeping his name alive became a mission and a duty.”

And that’s why there’s an upcoming Camp 24. Let’s hope it becomes an annual event and makes a difference.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is [email protected]

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