love-logo-1uhldcgThe inaugural “LOVE and Basketball 3 on 3 Tournament” lands in the HoopDome at Downsview Park on March 15th. Several hundred ballers and supporters will come together to raise money for Leave Out Violence, compete against Jonas Valanciunas in a game of ‘bump’, listen to community spokespeople including Jamaal Magloire of Raptor fame, and to compete against each other for prizes and fun.

Leave Out Violence (LOVE) is a youth violence prevention organization. It engages youths who – through one way or another – have had personal experience with violence and are ready to make a significant commitment to shaping their community. Through the lens of a camera, writing, and video production, these talented youths find their voice by completing a Media Arts program and, in subsequent years of LOVE programming, lead their communities in promoting violence prevention. Lana Feinstein, the Executive Director of LOVE Ontario emphasizes the fact that these youths are “strong, capable people who have the wisdom and the skill to influence change in their communities in a long-term way.” Not only is LOVE remarkable because they exemplify a genuine trust in community-driven innovation, but they also identify their participants’ youth as an asset in the battle for awareness and efficacy; says Feinstein: “young people have a real capacity to create a ripple effect for change. [Through our] model of leverage, we engage about 60-80 leaders each year. These young people will reach out to between 8,000 and 10,000 people.” As a result of the network that LOVE works to create, since its founding in 1993, it has spread from Montreal, across Canada and the world.

The basketball tournament is raising money to support the Media Arts, entry level LOVE program. Because LOVE relies on shifting with the communities who need it most, it must be nimble and continue to provide valuable programming to its participants. “We know the model spreads, takes root in its community and that it works.” Feinstein cites research conducted by McGill University over the last three years as a barometer for their success: it shows that 80% of youth who have come through LOVE programming have seen a significant reduction in violence in their lives. Less formally, the fact that participants will often spend many years leading LOVE programming after they’ve ‘graduated’ suggests that its influence is long-lasting. The only thing keeping LOVE from empowering more youth in under-served communities across the country is revenue generated by fundraisers like this tournament.

These youths are brave, motivated members of their communities who embrace fleeting moments of change in their lives and, through their time at LOVE, find the support and tools they need to shape real change. Perhaps that dramatic moment is readily familiar to us through the world of sport. When a player comes off the bench to buoy their team to victory, drawing on the passion that has burned within them the whole time they sat and worked through practices, they garner the support and admiration of their teammates and audience who can feel them taking their opportunity seriously.

The staff at LOVE rely on the youth to commit to their programming just as the youth rely on the staff for support and training. The mutually supportive relationship and the fact that LOVE enables those who have had personal exposure to violence and have legitimate agency in the highest priority communities in Toronto, Canada and the world, is truly inspiring. But Feinstein puts the scope of her organization in sharp focus: “The only restriction we have in terms of how many young people we reach is our revenue…investment in training these leaders is very cost effective and the leverage effect is very far reaching.”

Spectators are invited to the tournament between 12:30 and 2:00, in time to catch a couple of presentations from LOVE graduates and Jamaal Magloire. Bring along a couple of bucks to buy a raffle ticket or two; there are some amazing prizes! LOVE solicits donations all the time and can be found at A certain My Entertainment World reporter has a team in the tournament; he and his team can be supported HERE.

An organization with such unflinching belief in the power of our communities should feel our support when they reach out for help.