Last August Shalisa Hayes lost her son, Billy Ray Shirley, III when he was shot and killed during an after hours party in a warehouse. As of this writing, his murderer has not been caught. It is the only unsolved Tacoma homicide from 2011. He was 17.
Billy Ray wasn’t your typical teenager. By all accounts he was someone who wanted to make a distinct difference in the community. He had a vision and he spent time making that vision happen.
Shalisa didn’t choose to lose her son. But she chose to make sure Billy Ray’s vision lives on in the form of the Billy Ray Shirley, III Foundation. I contacted her and asked if she’d like to take the time and tell you about her Foundation and her son. Luckily, she accepted the invitation. Here’s Shalisa:
1. What is the Billy Ray Shirley, III Foundation?
A nonprofit business with a vision to build and maintain a fully functional state of the art community center on the east side of Tacoma that gives life to Billy Ray’s vision of having a fun, healthy & safe place for youth to go. This facility shall be one that will provide the programs and resources necessary to engage youth in conversation and activities that will promote positive life choices. We will also look to reinforce education, decrease violence and encourage healthy lifestyles while inspiring individuals to work at continuously building their communities regardless of social or economic boundaries.
2. What is your favorite memory of Billy Ray?
Billy Ray came to me one day and explained that he had noticed a young man at school that always wore holey shoes, so he decided that he wanted to give him a few pair of his own shoes but didn’t know how to approach the young man without embarrassing him or himself. Eventually, the thought of giving
shoes evolved in to giving him both shoes and clothing. I gave Billy Ray a suggestion about how to approach the situation and for whatever reason he decided to do things differently, only to have the young man reject his offer. Later in the week, the two talked and the young man agreed to take Billy Ray
up on his offer. I watched as my son loaded up the car with a few bags of clothes and shoes as he prepared himself to give to his new friend. My heart, mind and spirit will never ever forget the day that I got to meet this young man. Billy Ray was no stranger to doing something for someone else, but I think this story touched me so deeply because I’ve always preached to Billy Ray about how we are no better than anyone else, and no matter how beautiful or expensive the material things we have, they can all be lost or taken in the blink of an eye. So, to watch him take that seriously and rather than be judgmental of someone who may not have had as much as he and turn it in to an opportunity to hopefully make that someone feel good, warms my heart every time I think about it. To make this even more special…….as a teenager, I used to be that young man. I know exactly how it feels to walk around with
holey shoes, so in my mind, Billy Ray was giving to me.
3. What has been the response since you started the Foundation?
Very positive. I have yet to meet a person who lives in or knows the history of Tacoma’s east side and does not agree with the need for what I am trying to accomplish. In the past, the east side has had some facilities and programs that cater to our youth, however in recent times that has changed. Although there are still some programs available, they are very limited and spread out over the area so our youth appear to outnumber these programs. As a result, people from all walks of life have encouraged me to move forward with the idea of making this community center happen.
4. How can people help the Billy Ray Shirley, III Foundation?
We are looking to raise awareness as well as funds to support our cause. We need people who can assist in the following ways:
- Connect with more Tacoma residents (especially the east side) to rally their support. Adults are needed to help guide the project and youth are needed to help determine what’s needed within in the community center, as well as get involved with our various community service activities.
- Utilize individual job skills to help with the project, both with programming for the youth as well as the building or remodeling of a building to be used for a center (ie., architecture, budgeting, commercial building, etc).
- Send a donation. In these tough economic times, government funding is not easy to come by so private funding is also necessary.
- Purchase Team Billy Ray clothing to contribute to the fund. All funds received from clothing purchases will be used for the costs associated with building and/or maintaining the community center. The youth of Team Billy Ray is also involved in a lot of community service and fundraising activities, therefore these funds may also be used to help offset any costs to host these events (ie. facility rentals, group transportation, etc.).
5. What do you see for the future of the Billy Ray Shirley, III Foundation?
Billy Ray was a young philanthropist. I see this foundation growing in to a business that will continue that practice and provide a variety of items to the community. To name a few……. educational scholarships, membership/program scholarships (for patrons of the community center), food and clothing vouchers for the needy, as well as continuously raising funds to help maintain the operation of the community center in order to prevent it from becoming another casualty. The foundation will help support the community center that I envision to be a one stop shop for our youth.
I’d like to thank Shalisa for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. As always, if you or anyone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, contact me at email@example.com
- Jack Cameron