Basketball program in Vancouver aims to curb youth gun violence

A basketball program in Vancouver, WA gives kids a safe place to go and a healthy outlet for their feelings and problems.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 11:09 PM PDT
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VANCOUVER Wash. (KPTV) - In just the last year, several teenagers have been killed or injured by gun violence in the Portland metro area. While the problem can sometimes feel too big to address, efforts are underway.

One program in Vancouver focuses on providing mentorship and a support system. In the process, kids are getting physically fit, they’re winning basketball tournaments and having fun.

Eli Howard is 5th grader in the A1Elite Basketball program. His coach says he’s already ranked among the top ten players in Washington for the class of 2030. Eli has grown to love to program, saying “it isn’t just a team we hang out after all our games. They aren’t just coaches they’re family, you can talk to them about any problem, they’ll be okay with it.”

Coach Tony Patton started A1 Elite several years ago. The program has grown from 30 kids to almost 200. He says the point of it all isn’t just basketball, it’s about providing kids a safe place to go, so they don’t get caught up in the negative influences on the streets. He says, “I want to stop it, by having them understand they got someone to talk to, they got someone who’s been through stuff that they don’t have to go through.”

Eli’s dad, Samuel Howard, lost his daughter in a shooting at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the Portland International Airport earlier this year. He believes strongly in the importance of programs such as A1 Elite.

He says, “we got older people out there helping these kids feed into their pain the wrong way –we’re trying to give them tools to correct that pain the right way…kids are running into other kids that are broken without knowing that there is another way to communicate rather than physically fighting or shooting.”

Coach Tony says there’s room for more adults who want to mentor and coach kids. He also says it’s key to keep the cost for programs like this one low so that families aren’t deterred from joining because of the cost.