CINCINNATI — Following an uptick in violence among teens in Cincinnati, including a shooting at Smale Park that killed or injured several children under the age of 18, community leaders in Avondale are turning to the city's youth for ideas and answers.
In June, Cincinnati saw at least two quadruple shootings that injured or killed children under the age of 18. One shooting in Westwood injured a 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old boy. Another in Walnut Hills killed a 16-year-old boy.
A violent June and the shooting at Smale Riverfront Park during the Fourth of July has left many in the city searching for solutions.
"While we may be concerned about our young people, we can't move forward without hearing from our young people," said pastor Ennis Tait, with the New Beginnings Church of the Living God in Avondale. "We need to know what's on their hearts and on their minds."
Tait led an effort to listen to the group of people he said are directly impacted by the gun violence: teens.
Yolanda Johnson, from the Everything Family Foundation, discussed resources available to the community and highlighted the efforts of a group called the Water Boys.
"It's easy to go buy a case of waters, but it's easier to go pick up a gun and shoot somebody," said Donterion, one of the Water Boys who have decided to earn extra cash by selling water bottles instead of drugs.
The Water Boys get together most days in Bond Hill to sell bottled water to neighbors in Avondale.
At the intersection of Reading Road and Forest Avenue in Avondale, just feet from where 16-year-old Galevon Beauchamp was shot and killed in June, the conversation about violence involving teens sparked among the Water Boys, who recall the deaths with heavy hearts.
"Broke my heart," said Carlos, one of the Water Boys. "I was in the house. Nice little dinner and stuff. I got a call and started breaking down. I couldn't even believe it."
The group proudly wore necklaces with photos of Beauchamp and said their efforts to serve their community while keeping themselves and others out of trouble are even more important after the loss of a friend.
"Put the guns down and pick up a book," said Donterion. "Pick up waters or something. Go do something nice for a change."