YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Isaiah Walker would have a been a high school junior this year — but he was shot near Homestead Park on May 31.
He ran home but died shortly after from his wounds.
Sunday, his family celebrated what would have been his 17th birthday at the Pavilion at the Eugenia Atkinson Recreation Center on Youngstown’s North Side.
His father said they usually had big family get-togethers for birthdays — but this year, they had to celebrate without the guest of honor.
“He was not scared of anything,” said Isaiah’s cousin Ernest Johnson.
Johnson affectionately called his cousin “Zay” and said they were as close as brothers.
“If he was going cliff jumping into the ocean he would be the first one doing it,” Johnson said.
Isaiah’s aunt Lydia Walker said she wanted to not only remember Isaiah’s birthday, but also get out a message of anti-violence and get community resources into the hands of people who need them.
“We also want to do a movement — ‘Do It For Zay’ — and what that means is in it for yourself. In the name of Isaiah, do something for yourself, you know, go to school, get a job, get counseling,” Lydia Walker said.
His family had sign-up sheets for anyone needing mental or physical health services and family or even spiritual assistance.
“If something is not here, sign up and say what it is you want and so that way — and that’s basically saying, let’s bring the resources to the people,” Lydia Walker said.
Despite the smiles and laughter, Zay’s family said they are angry and want the community to see Isaiah as an inspiration to better themselves.
“Be inspired by an unfortunate act,” Lydia Walker said.
The Walker Family also invited groups to their celebration. My Path Mahoning Valley was one of those groups.
“They specialize in helping kids in sixth to 12th grades with future career planning.
According to their website, My Path has helped over 10,000 local students since 2002.
“Building career awareness after high school graduation, so we try to make them aware of the different pathways. College, career tech certificates, apprenticeships, military service or directly to the workforce, to jobs that will give them a self-sustaining — eventually family-sustaining — wage,” said executive director Gerri Jenkins.
More information is available at their website or at 330-675-4322.