Donations pour in for former Kamloops football coach whose brother, cousin were killed in Chicago protests | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Donations pour in for former Kamloops football coach whose brother, cousin were killed in Chicago protests

Dionte Jelks says he's feeling the support from his former players and coaches from the Kamloops Community Football Society.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Kamloops Community Football Society
June 12, 2020 - 4:55 PM

A former Kamloops football coach is reeling after his brother and cousin were killed amid violent protests in the United States.

“They were at a stoplight on the south side of Chicago and the vehicle stopped, and all of a sudden another SUV, a dark coloured SUV, pulled up and shot both of them right there in the car, right at the stoplight,” says Dionte Jelks.

He says his family has struggled to thrive in a city that still has segregated neighbourhoods, subpar education, racism and violence. He remembers his late brother and cousin as two people who wanted to provide the best they could for their families despite their circumstances.

“They were good guys. They struggled all their lives just like me. They were working so hard to help provide a better life for their kids. My cousin, Maurice, had been working in carpentry for the last six or seven years and he just recently purchased his first home. His daughter is going to one of the top schools in Chicago,” Jelks says. “My brother… he’s been looking out for all the little young guys in my family. He’s got a bubbly personality, loved to laugh, loved to eat and it just kills me that I don’t have anybody to talk to on my way home. That’s who I used to talk to every single day on my commute home.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, his brother Darius Jelks and cousin Maurice Jelks were two of 18 people who were murdered in Chicago on Sunday, May 31.

Jelks says the violence in the south side of Chicago and systemic racism in the United States is what prompted him to move away. He says the service for his brother is tomorrow, although he won’t be attending in-person, a decision he struggled with.

“‘Should I go? What’s going to happen with my family? With Covid, is it safe to go?’ I’m constantly wrestling with those decisions in my head. My son, he’s 14 right now and he cried and told me, ‘don’t go.’ He didn’t want me to leave. It’s sad where, you know, the emotions are trickling down to my kids and they’re feeling the effects of what happened.”

Jelks moved to B.C. around ten years ago after meeting his wife, who is from Vancouver Island, where he's now the principal of Ladysmith Intermediate School. He says his life completely changed after moving here, and now he’s working to get his mother and two nephews to the province.

“I want to bring them here as soon as possible but we have to wait until I get my brother’s death certificate to process his passport, but in the meantime, I’m going to see if I can seek asylum for my nephews and for my mom,” Jelks says. “This has been a plan in the making for quite some time… (My brother and I) were talking about sending the kids up here for a summer, because in Chicago that’s the time when murders and violence spikes… we wanted to send them up for the summer, but unfortunately, now it’s going to be for good.”

The nephews will be raised alongside Jelks’ own kids, and he looks forward to all of them growing up together in a positive environment.

Credit: FACEBOOK / Dionte Jelks

While living in B.C, Jelks has been a school principal at the Skeetchestn Elementary and was a coach for almost four years in the Kamloops Community Football Society. He says he still talks to some of the board members, coaches and players despite moving to Vancouver Island over a year ago.

“Once you coach a kid, it doesn’t matter if it’s for one practice or for a whole season, you are connected with that individual player and their whole family for the rest of their lives because those kids count on you… It’s been unbelievable. The phone calls, the cards, it’s non-stop the fundraising to help with the funeral expenses and to help with my nephews,” Jelks says.

Jelks has had much support from the communities in B.C. where he’s lived, worked and coached. People across the province are raising money to help cover the funeral expenses, as well as the cost for bringing his nephews and mother up north. A GoFundMe has now raised nearly $14,000, and Kamloops residents can donate to a fund for Jelks by bringing empties to the Sahali and downtown General Grant's Bottle Depot.

Jelks says any money left over from the donations will go towards trust funds for his nephews. He looks forward to raising the 6-year-old and 11-year-old boys in a place where they can feel safe.

“I just want to get them to a safe place where they can run and have fun and not worry about being shot at or somebody chasing them. I just want them, first and foremost, to relax their minds and relax their bodies because they’ve been through so much,” Jelks says. “It’s something that I wish everybody back home has the opportunity to do, to come to Canada and be free, not to be harassed by police officers, not to have people look at you a certain way. I think this is the best decision of my life moving here.”

Credit: FACEBOOK / Lisa Cooke

Moving forward, Jelks says he’s now inspired to run a touring football clinic where he focuses on how to teach kids skills about the game, and even more valuable lessons about racism and equality.

“I’m very grateful to everyone’s support and everyone’s generosity and they’ve inspired me to start working on a few action plans. One of the action plans I’ve been inspired to do… I’m going to take a couple of men here on the island and we're going to try to travel to various cities to do football clinics and to discuss and openly talk about racism and how those young individuals can be the change they want to see in the world.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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