Sam Shields hosts fundraiser

Growing up in the area through elementary and high school, Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields has seen his fair share of violence just in his old neighborhood.

Denver Broncos secondary Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could say the same, since leaving the streets of Bradenton to play in the big leagues of the NFL. But both veteran athletes are spending their offseason in a different way than most, teaming up with the Sarasota Police Department to promote the “Stop the Violence” celebrity basketball fundraiser set for tonight.

The event aims to bring awareness to crime in the community, with Shields and Rodgers-Cromartie assembling teams to face off at Booker High School at 6 p.m. Both players are using the basketball game as a fun-filled family event to help build relations in the area.

For Rodgers-Cromartie, a Bradenton native and Lakewood Ranch high school football star, coming back to Sarasota was a chance to contribute to the community.

“We spend a lot of time away from home, so every chance we get it’s good to come and give back,” he said. “Some of the guys, who were equally talented as me in high school, have fallen to the wayside because of the street life . . . it’s sad.”

Even Shields, who has grown up in Sarasota and graduated from Booker High School, has personal stories of scarring violence he has experienced.

“I was out late and saw someone get shot right in the head in front of me, and that opened up my eyes — wide open,” Shields said. “It made me think I needed to keep my life going the way it was and on a path to greater things.”

They are memories that both athletes would like to change, especially in their home areas. With hopes of a high turnout, all proceeds will go toward funding youth recreation at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex on 34th Street.

“I’ve always wanted to be that guy to come back and show love to the community,” Shields said. “Hopefully a lot of good will come out of this.”

The game will be at Booker High, 3201 North Orange Ave.. Admission is $5. Gates will open at 6 p.m., with tip-off at 7 p.m.

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