CLEVELAND, Ohio — When you’re biking 330 miles across the state of Ohio, it’s important to stay on track.
“You can’t lose sight of what you’re doing it for,” said Calvin Love.
But for Love, the organizer of the bike-a-thon and owner of Little Giants Boxing Club in Euclid, it’s not about what he’s doing it for, but who he’s doing it for.
“Four years ago, I lost a nephew. He was gunned down in Euclid, Ohio. Wrong place, wrong time. That left a hole, not only in my heart but in my family’s heart,” said Love.
He’s now dedicated his life to making sure kids stay on the right track, too.
“Gun violence is an unacceptable norm that we need to fix,” he said.
He organized the Bike To Unite Against Gun Violence event to raise awareness around gun violence. The group started in Cincinnati and made its way through Columbus and Akron, before finishing their 5-day trek in Cleveland on Sunday.
The event also was intended to help raise funds for The Little Giants Boxing Club in order for the organization to move to a larger, safer facility and gym while providing healthy activities to Northeast Ohio youth and working to keep them from becoming “another violent crime statistic.”
Since the death of Love's 22-year-old nephew, Quenton Copes Jr., he has only seen gun violence grow.
“The first step is identifying a problem and that’s what we wanted to do,” he said.
Already in 2021, there have been 51 homicides in Cleveland, and 48 of those involved a gun. According to Cleveland police, that’s a rise of more than 30% compared to this time in 2020.
Richard Starr, a director for the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio, has seen far too many children who walk into the club but don’t get to walk into adulthood due to gun violence.
“We are losing this battle with gun violence in our community, in our city. It is mainly a result of leadership,” said Starr.
Starr blames lack of leadership and points to Cleveland’s education system.
“I can’t sit here and just ignore the fact that our kids are getting passed along and getting told that they’re graduating, but you can’t read or write,” he said.
Starr said children who are overlooked and fall behind in school often turn to the streets.
He said city leaders are often quick to point to graduation rates, but fail to properly provide children with the skills they need to go on to college or work in a trade.
“We need to think of a safety initiative to make sure that our kids are safe, our families are safe and that is not being done in our community,” said Starr.
Love said while it may take time to work out solutions to the rise in gun violence, it’s time for everyone to have a stake in the race.
“We have so many people talking about the problems and no one wants to step in and fill those voids,” he said.
This story was originally published by Jessi Schultz at WEWS.