CINCINNATI — Eight-year-old Marcellus Whitehead, who remains hospitalized after he was shot in the head in Westwood while walking to the market for a snack, was a fighter on the football field, according to John Clifford, president of the Cin City Gators.
On Sunday, the team put up a fight of their own to raise money for their teammate.
"Nobody deserves this, no family," said Clifford. "We've got a kid that's in the hospital. He's fighting."
Whitehead's mother, Marcella Thompson, said her son has already beaten the odds; he's opened his eyes and is moving a bit, but the road in front of him is still incredibly long.
"He's more of a fighter than a lot of these grown guys," said Thompson. "He definitely fighting, he's moving, he's opening those eyes. He's shown a lot of emotion. He's crying at this point."
Still, she said, going more than 15 days without being able to hear her son's voice has been devastating.
At the car wash on Sunday, Thompson said the support from the local community has meant a lot to her.
"It feels great to know that I have people standing with me," she said.
The football team washed cars Sunday afternoon to help raise money to support Whitehead's medical bills and to take a stand against violence in the community.
"We just want to stop the violence," said Clifford. "We have to. And we hope events like this and more future events we can do in the city will stop some of this crime. And the crime wave that's going on."
East Westwood Community Council president Rodney Christian also called on community members to stand up and stand together to help curb violence.
"We need everyone to start standing with our communities, not quick talks on TV, but standing with them, letting them know you got their back," he said.
In addition to Sunday's car wash, Whitehead's family has also set up a GoFundMe to help raise money for Marcellus' medical bills.
"This is my reality for the next, God knows when," said Thompson. "My life changed in a moment. But to hear this man stand next to me and know that I've got someone willing to stand up and fight with my baby, this is what we need."