CHICAGO — Tim Hall believes he coaches in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city of Chicago.
Hall says his football team even practices shooter drills.
“Most teams are probably not in East Garfield Park,” Hall said.
Over the decades, some of the young players who called Hall ‘Coach’ have lost their lives to gun violence.
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“This was a bad year. Two former players were murdered and one high school player was murdered,” Hall said.
A few months ago, the Garfield Gators family suffered another tragedy.
“It’s really been hard for me to deal with this because my mom was my best friend,” said son Aiden, whose 28-year-old mother, Aiesha Lewis, was shot and killed in West Rogers Park in September. “I have to deal with the fact she’s not coming back and I have a little brother I have to take care of.”
The young football player said he’s been bullied at school since the fatal shooting.
“Now she’s gone. No one understands where I’m coming from when I say I’m really, really hurt,” Aiden said.
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Coach Hall is trying to boost his boys by taking them on the trip of a lifetime.
“We are raising funds to get our football team to Florida for the 2022 national championships,” Hall said.
“I’m an honorary all-star. These people behind me are all-stars too. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where I get to go to Florida and I actually get to have fun,” Aiden added.
Coach Hall said they have a few surprises in mind when they arrive in Florida – a trip to an amusement park or an encounter with their namesake.
“We are Gators. I always take them to the alligator place so they can see the alligators. Let them hold them, mess with them, pet them, let them know you are a real gator,” Hall said.
The all-star trip is set for Dec. 2. The cost of getting 40 kids down to Florida, plus some adults to chaperone, would cost about $30,000.
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The team has set up a fundraiser to reach the goal, but Hall says even if they don’t hit that target, they’ll figure out some way to get on that plane.
“We are still going somewhere. Somehow God will find a way for us to get there,” Hall said.
“I got my mom watching over me and my little brother too,” Aiden added. “Go Gators.”