east athens community center

The East Athens Community Center is a fully equipped facility with a gymnasium, kitchen, game room, a library and several other multipurpose rooms. (Photo/Daniela Rico)

On July 27 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., parents, schoolteachers and kids of all ages will converge on the East Athens Community Center for the “Guns Down, Water Guns Up Back to School Giveaway” in a collective effort to fight crime.

As kids duel and duke it out with water guns and water balloons on the building’s field, their parents will talk with Clarke County School District teachers and faculty in an information session for the upcoming year.

Ben “BigBody” Edwards, the owner of Bentley and Body’s Works T-Shirts and More, is the main organizer. After attending a “Guns Down, Water Guns Up” event in Atlanta in June, he was inspired to host a similar event, with a twist. For the event, Edwards made 400 backpacks filled with school supplies using a combination of his money and local donations.

“It’s going to be all positivity, all love and just trying to help kids who are less fortunate and [give] them a good start,” Edwards said.

Edwards plans to bring a bouncy house and several water balloons for the event but implores families to bring their own water guns. However, he will bring a few water guns to spare.

“I’ve been blessed tremendously. I come from the streets. I’ve made my mistakes. God has blessed me so I want to be a blessing for someone else,” Edwards said.

The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement is cosponsoring the event. AADM President Mokah-Jasmine Johnson joined forces with Edwards to fight gun violence in Athens by reaching out to local children and advocating non-violence. Clarke County School District Superintendent Demond Means will also be in attendance, according to Edwards.

According to CrimeReports, there have been a total of 85 incidences of violent crime —assault, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and homicides — from July 11 to July 25 in Athens.

“Just this Monday, a young lady was shot and killed. She was pregnant. Her baby died and she passed away and she left behind a three-year-old son,” Johnson said. “This is an ongoing [issue].”

In light of the violence, many local citizens and other organizations such as Moms Demand Action and Edward’s mother have contributed food, water and money in an effort to help make the event a success.

“It’s not just up to the government. it’s not just up to the police. It’s also up to the community […] to see what can be done to reduce some of the violence,” Johnson said.

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