The Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center on Market Street was buzzing with activity Saturday during the second-annual L.A.W.S. Movement After Christmas Familee Party held in memory of Lee West.
Lee was just 15 years old in early 2012 when his life was claimed by an electrical fire at his family's home. Lee's mother, Cookie West, has since turned her grief into a positive force for the community by organizing the Lee Alexander West Spiritual Movement.
"The L.A.W.S. legacy is about helping and giving back to the community," West said. "We are Christian-based, and we are able to do what we do through Christ's love. Lee loved this community, and so do we."
HONORING LEE WEST — L.A.W.S. Movement members got the community together Saturday for the second-annual After Christmas Familee Party at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center gymnasium. Those who helped plan and run the event were, front row from left, Diane Pendergrast, Elexis Martin, Cookie West, Katie Forsythe, Jennifer Agresta, and back row from left, Pastor Everett Mitchell of Tower of Power Ministries, AunDrea West, Bernadine White, and Steubenville city firefighters Chris Takach and Robbie Moore. - Shae Dalrymple
Lee was a passionate athlete. He played baseketball, baseball and football and is remembered by his family for being the "peacemaker" when conflicts arose.
"Lee loved basketball and being with his family and community," recalled Katie Forsythe, L.A.W.S. member. "Just seeing everyone come together peacefully on the court would make him smile."
Pizza, cookies and refreshments were provided to families for free, and an intense basketball tournament was held in the gymnasium. More than 200 people attended, and five teams consisting of family relatives played in the tournament. T-shirts, bracelets and gift cards also were raffled off throughout the day.
Bernadine White, Lee's grandmother, handed each guest a raffle ticket at the entrance to the recreation center after signing them in.
"This is truly family oriented, because I've seen the parents come in, and they all have their children with them," White said. "I think my grandson would be happy with this, because family was everything to him."
City firefighters Chris Takach and Robbie Moore spoke to the crowd about fire safety, offering reminders about simple steps that can save lives, such as using smoke detectors and planning an exit strategy ahead of time.
"We try to incorporate the fire department into every aspect of the events we do," West noted. "They do very hard work, and we are so thankful for them."
The L.A.W.S. Movement plans to hold a "Birthday Bash" featuring a basketball tournament in July for Lee's birthday.
"The holidays are about family, blood or not," West said. "This is just good, positive family fun for people to look forward to."
West added that her group plans to keep holding the After Christmas Familee Party annually for as long as they can.