Argos reach out

SARAH GREEN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 5:14 PM ET

ARGOS HEAD coach Pinball Clemons knows too well the devastation of gun violence.

His father-in-law, Wilton Lee, was shot to death by a friend nearly 20 years ago -- just hours after Lee prevented the same friend from turning a gun on someone else.

An emotional Clemons, backed by his football team, yesterday launched the Stop the Violence -- We are Toronto campaign in a bid to end the spate of shootings that has stained the city's streets.

Clemons, who will host a town hall meeting about gun violence on CITY-TV on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m., said his father-in-law was walking away from an argument with his friend in Florida when he was shot.

'FILLED HIM UP'

"When he got to the door, the guy shouted out his name. When he turned around, he filled him up with bullets," Clemons said, pausing to contain his emotions.

"If he could see my mother-in-law's face, he wouldn't have pulled the trigger."

The campaign, backed by Toronto's mayor and police chief, includes the launch of stoptheviolence.ca and a goal to raise $100,000 over six months for community programs.

The Argos launched the campaign on their homefield at the Rogers Centre, but Clemons said only a community-wide effort will end the gun violence that has taken 31 lives so far this year.

"The challenge is to every one of us," he said. "All of us have to do more."

The Argos will also practise in gun-plagued parts of the city beginning next Tuesday, when they warm up in the Jane-Finch area. Another community practice will be held Sept. 17.

Linebackers Chuck Winters and Michael Fletcher escaped the guns and gang violence that took their brothers in tough U.S. neighbourhoods.

LOST HIS WAY

Winters' younger brother Malik, once a promising baseball player in Detroit, was shot to death six years ago. Although he wasn't in a gang, Winters said his brother lost his way after giving up sports.

"When you lose a loved one, it's tough. I just don't want people to go through the same pain," Winters said.

A coach turned Fletcher to sports 20 years ago while growing up in gritty Compton, Calif. Three of his brothers became "gangbangers," he said, and were in and out of jail. One is still serving time.

"Two guys I grew up with got killed last week," Fletcher said. "I sure don't want it happening here. This is my home. This is a great city."

Ben Osei, who works with disadvantaged kids at Jane and Finch, said the campaign will help as long as it's a long-term project, not a knee-jerk reaction. "This is a marathon," Osei, of Youth Unlimited, said.


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