NORTH LAWNDALE — A fundraiser for the family of the 11-year-old killed last week in a hit-and-run on the West Side has raised more than $27,000 for the boy’s funeral and other expenses.
Ja’lon James was going to a corner store with his twin brother when a driver hit him just a block from their home, witnesses said.
The GoFundMe was launched by the boy’s mentor, Jamyle Cannon, who runs a boxing program called the Bloc that Ja’lon and his brothers participated in twice a week. Cannon created the fundraiser to “take a little weight off the family’s shoulders” as they recover from an unimaginable tragedy, he said.
“It’s devastating to lose someone who was so lively and energetic, who made his mark everywhere he went,” Cannon said. “He could fill a room with his presence. He would come to the Bloc with his brothers and would love to put on a show for his brothers, make them laugh.”
Ja’lon was eager to join the Bloc in 2020 so he could “spend more time with his brothers,” who had been training in the boxing program, Cannon said. The program was an outlet for Jal’on to apply himself and explore interests in an environment less structured that school, Cannon said.
“He loved a good challenge and liked to play around with his brothers,” Cannon said. “It’s an open place for him to be more expressive, and he appreciated that freedom he felt when he got here.”
Besides boxing, Ja’lon liked to climb trees, tend the community garden and “make up games” out of everyday tasks, Cannon said.
Cannon’s fondest memory of Ja’lon was one of the last times he saw the 11-year-old. Ja’lon was watering the garden when the boy’s three brothers ran into the boxing gym with their shirts off, dripping wet. Ja’lon had spontaneously turned the chore of tending the plants into a game of water tag, Cannon said.
“He turned the whole sidewalk into a water park. That captured the spirit that he brought into everything,” Cannon said.
Ja’lon was killed Thursday in the 3300 block of West 16th Street. He was crossing the street when the driver hit him, police said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police are still investigating the hit-and-run.
The crash occurred near North Lawndale College Prep, 1615 S. Christiana Ave., as well as churches and a community garden, where there are many pedestrians during the day.
There are several crosswalks at 16th Street intersections between Kedzie and Homan avenues, though there are no stop signs to slow traffic. Despite the crosswalks, cars speed down that stretch of road “like a drag strip,” said Latanya S., who witnessed the crash.
“A lot of people don’t obey the signs on the ground. They see a crosswalk, but they could care less,” she said.
The boy is at least the third child a driver has killed in recent weeks in Chicago.
On June 2, a driver hit and killed 2-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas in Lincoln Square.
On June 9, 3-year-old Elizabeth Grace Shambrook was killed in Uptown.
Hundreds of people marched in Lincoln Square recently to demand safer streets after the children’s deaths. A man who’d been at the march was killed just hours later when a driver hit him as he crossed the street.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: