Community uses their love of basketball to help neighbor - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Community uses their love of basketball to help neighbor

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

It looked like a typical basketball game Thursday night at Chestnut Accelerated Middle School in Springfield. But this time, it wasn't about the score.

"Basketball is kind of the glue of the neighborhood," said gym director Mel Federico.

That may hold true now more than ever before. Not long ago Federico was approached by 22-year-old Jonathan Melendez.

For years, Melendez has spent five nights a week at the school, playing basketball.

"I just have fun here and have a lot of friends that support me," Melendez said. 

He needs that support now more than ever.

In January, Melendez's son Jayden died just short of his second birthday.

Little Jayden had hung on and battled a rare brain disease that left him unable to walk, see or speak.

"He couldn't talk or anything, but he was a baby and smiling and a lot of people love him, too," Melendez said. 

His death was a blow to Melendez and funeral expenses built up.

That's when a community that had grown around basketball stepped in.

"We've had people from the neighborhood volunteer to keep score, referee, the janitor. I mean everybody really is just open arms," Federico said. 

Federico set up a basketball tournament, charged each player $25 and so far they've raised nearly $1,000 for Melendez and his family to get a proper headstone to honor Jayden's life.

Without this community to help him back onto his feet, Melendez says he doesn't know where he'd be.

"We need the money to pay for the stuff we need, so I just want to thank all the people that came and supported us," Melendez said.

Copyright 2014 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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