(NewsNation Now) — There has been a spotlight on crime in Chicago, America’s third-largest city.
In response, 24-year-old McKinley Nelson founded Project Swish, a nonprofit organization that aims to help keep teenagers off the streets and out of trouble using basketball and yoga.
“We started Project Swish, because we know that in Chicago, basketball, it’s like everybody’s meal ticket out,” Nelson said during an appearance on “Morning in America”. “It’s everybody’s, you know, chance to get a different life than what they were given growing up.”
In college at the time, Nelson says he did a bit of homework to see what areas of Chicago had the highest crime rates and at what time of day crimes were happening.
Using that data, Nelson organized a basketball event, “a pop-up at every single one of these neighborhoods at the highest crime time.”
For teenagers, the peak hours for violent crimes are between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., according to Nelson.
The pop-up events provided a free meal, allowed teens to play basketball and were “pretty much a safe haven more than anything,” Nelson says.
“Oftentimes, when the ball stops bouncing, people, you know, people pick up things that aren’t so positive in the city,” Nelson says about why he started the nonprofit three years ago. “What I wanted to do was keep guys connected to the game of basketball as long as possible.”
Nelson says he developed Project Swish at a time when he was dealing with the loss of a lot of friends to gun violence.
“It was kind of like simple logic,” he says. “If I can get these guys to play basketball a little bit longer. I’ll probably have them around longer.”
When the pandemic happened, basketball gyms were closed. And even though yoga is “not really common in an area that, you know, I grew up in,” Nelson said. “I wanted to make sure that we weren’t sitting on our tails.”
And now, “yoga is a big factor,” he said. “We’re doing some art therapy, some massage therapy, some dog therapy and pretty much anything that we can get our hands on.”
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