GARFIELD PARK — Barber Terrance “Razor Red” Wills wanted to put the money he made cutting NBA players’ hair to good use, so he built a basketball court for neighborhood kids.
The full-length court behind Willa Cather Elementary School, 2908 W. Washington Blvd., was built in 2016 with $45,000 from Wills as a “safe zone” for kids to play and participate in an annual summer tournament, the Bulls barber said. But burglars stole the basketball hoops early Wednesday, he said.
The barber has launched a GoFundMe for $25,000 to repair the court and keep alive hope the Safe Zone Youth Tournament will run at the end of the summer. Wills will use the funds on the tournament, to repaint the court and to buy heavy duty, Park-District-issued rims and stronger gates, he said.
So far, the fundraiser has collected about $1,600.
“We save lives in the summers just by keeping the kids occupied, keeping them inspired,” Wills said. “That’s why I was devastated when the rims got stolen.”
Wills buys T-shirts, trophies and hires refs for hundreds of South and West side kids to play in his tournament, which runs three mornings a week throughout July, he said. He feeds everyone and gives out free haircuts, he said. Any Chicago kid is welcome to play.
“I was saving up that money at first to take a vacation, but then I said let me take a vacation with the kids in my community,” Wills said.
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Wills said he stumbled across the empty parking lot by his barbershop, Razor Red Grooming Solutions, in 2016 and got permission to redevelop it. The court is tucked away behind the school.
“That’s why we call it a safe zone,” Wills said. Children “can go there and feel comfortable because it’s by the school.”
Wills said he takes pride in maintaining the court throughout the year after he’s done cutting hair, sweeping up leaves and shooting hoops with the neighborhood kids. He MCs his summer tournament and interviews kids in front of the crowd after games.
“I’m giving the kids the full experience: stats, player of the game. If you do really well, I’ll talk to you on camera, say your name to the whole crowd. The kids love it,” Wills said. “I don’t have a nonprofit, but if I have a good year cutting hair, I give back to the community.”
Wills grew up in Rockwell Gardens and got his first big break cutting hair when he tracked down Scottie Pippen after a local tournament. Through networking and a rock-solid reputation, Wills is now a barber for the Chicago Bulls — with his own chair inside the team’s practice facility.
Wills said he’s investing some of his own money into rebuilding the court, but he launched the GoFundMe because he needs the community’s help. There are many talented kids who aren’t given enough opportunities to play and go on to higher levels of basketball, he said.
Last week, Wills ran into a kid who played his first organized basketball games at Wills’ tournament, he said. This summer, the teen’s working at Target to pay for junior college, where he’s on the basketball team.
“I built that basketball court from scratch. And we had the dopest tournament for the kids,” Wills said. “Sports can bring us together.”
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