It is no secret that ex-cons aren't rolling around in riches. Ex-cons who can't expunge their records have been finding it so hard to get a job that we had to "Ban the Box". Ex-cons who are lucky enough to find work will earn at least $329,700+ less than people without records, even if they are better qualified. Ex-cons with records often don't qualify for government-assistance with housing, food, and even education. No one helps ex-cons. They have to help themselves.
About a month ago, a story was posted about a group of boys who play football for Gainesville State. These kids travel to different parts of Texas, playing against other high schools. Sounds like any other Friday night, right? Look into the stands and you'll see Gainesville State doesn't have any fans. Look into the parking lot and you'll see bars on the windows of the bus the Tornadoes came over in. Look at what the kids are wearing and you'll realize it is much, much older than what the boys on the other side of the line of scrimmage are wearing.
Gainesville State is the largest juvenile detention facility in the state of Texas.
The Tornadoes are non-violent offenders who have been locked behind bars, many of whom have no parents or family support structure to fall back on.
Rather than finding that family in the streets, the r/ExCons community wanted to make sure the boys know that their family is everywhere. 1 out of 3 Americans are arrested at least once in their life. Everyone makes mistakes. Most of us are lucky enough to make those mistakes when we're old enough to get ourselves out of the system. The kids in Gainesville State are just that – kids.
They are in high school and prime examples of the types of kids that fall into the school-to-prison pipeline. An outlet like football is a great way to put a stop to the slide down the wrong path. But it is a double-edged sword. When these kids play against schools with tons of fans in the stands, with the latest uniforms and shoes, as well as the massive support system around them, they realize what they're missing out on.
They don't look like the other kids. They aren't treated like the other kids. They aren't given the same opportunities to grow like the other kids.
That's just not fair, and r/ExCons decided to change that.
We are so proud to have been able to be a part of this. We reached out to Gainesville State and found out from Coach Henry Thomas that the boys needed new shoes. So we started a fundraiser. We set a goal of $300 with the understanding that we'd raise it to $500 if we hit that goal before the weekend.
Within an hour, one person gave us enough to hit our goal.
Within 48 hours, the reddit community gave us enough to reach $3,000!
That's right – we raised 10 times as much as we wanted to raise in a week in just 48 hours.
Talk about a Hail Mary play!
To make things even sweeter, we have a Super Bowl of our own, now. One generous person has promised to throw in another $1,000 if we hit $5,000!
Never in a million years did we think this would happen. This is just out of this world. It shows how generous and how strong a community can be when they come together – and it shows how good the world is when it is given a chance to shine.
We plan to hand deliver a check for whatever we raise (minus the GoFundMe fee) to the Coach ourselves. We really hope you'll check out that update when it happens!
On behalf of ourselves, Rexcons, and the r/ExCons team, we can't express our gratitude enough. Thank you so very much to everyone who donated or shared our campaign with their friends. We still have a few days left, so we really hope to hit our goal! Even if we don't, we've already raised more than any of us thought we could, so it is a win in our books.