‘Deverin’s Locker’ memorial program helps young athletes in need

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A bereaved mother in the Ozarks has launched “Deverin’s Locker,” a program named after her late son to support young athletes and foster children with sports gear and covering fees for underprivileged children.

At just 18 years of age, Deverin King’s life was tragically cut short in a motorcycle accident last year. The stellar athlete had been granted scholarships for both academics and track at Evangel University.

Anita King, Deverin’s mother, told The Heartlander that her son was a versatile athlete who constantly supported his team and motivated others to excel.

After the loss of her son, King had a conversation with her friend Amanda Ingle at Ambassadors for Children. Together, they came up with the idea of creating Deverin’s Locker to honor his memory.

Ambassadors for Children collaborates closely with the local nonprofit Council of Churches of the Ozarks. The two entities have joined forces to guarantee Deverin’s Locker fulfills its mission.

King remembers her son always holding a basketball from the moment he could walk. In addition to being a great athlete, he aspired to be a teacher and coach for elementary or middle school students. Throughout his time at Central High School, Deverin took on the role of a teacher’s aide, providing mentorship to numerous young individuals.

“The impact he would have had on kids in his classroom would have been so far reaching that we had to do something to make sure he still had that impact,” King said.

“Deverin has a phenomenal sports story. I think he would tell kids who are interested in sports to go out there and give it your all. As long as you’ve got the drive and commitment, you can have that impact.”

Alongside Deverin’s Locker, King and her partners organized a DK Memorial track meet. The inaugural event took place on June 1, and the organizers intend to make it an annual event every June 1st. Nearly $10,000 was raised for the program at this year’s event.

The event also received a $7,500 boost from business partners. King says the turnout was a major success.

The event took place at Harrison Stadium in Springfield, a place where Deverin participated in various sports throughout the years. Drury University is technically in charge of operating the stadium, which is primarily used for Central High School sports, the same school Deverin attended.

Shem Johnson, Deverin’s  former coach at Central, assisted in organizing the stadium for the meet. Johnson, the head football and track coach of the Bulldogs, had a strong bond with Deverin.

Johnson was also instrumental in the creation of a memorial plaque that was commemorated during a December 2023 Central basketball game. The school has placed the plaque in the stairway leading to the basketball gymnasium, known as “The Pit.”

“Coach Johnson started a DK track award that is given at the end of the track season to a student who exemplifies passion, commitment and kindness like Deverin did,” King says.

“Deverin’s name is all over the athletic community at Central High School. The partnership between Coach Johnson, the other coaches at Central and the administration has been such a comfort to me and my family. We couldn’t ask for a better group of individuals to help us celebrate Deverin.”

King says the grief experienced from losing a child is a profound sorrow that is incredibly challenging to overcome.

“I have found that there aren’t words big enough or impactful enough to describe what it feels like to lose a child. You lose the actual person and then you lose the future that they should have had.

“Our society is not a society that understands and supports grief very well. We live in a society that wants everything to have a positive outcome. People say, ‘You won’t be given too much to handle,’ and that is absolutely not true. 

“I have been given too much to handle, and if it weren’t for the community of people around me who have been here to support me, I don’t know what my life would look like. Time doesn’t heal; you have to figure out how to live with this open wound, and that is very hard.

“Hard isn’t even a big-enough word. Losing a child affects every single aspect of your life.”

Deverin’s Locker will continue honoring her son’s life by assisting others, fulfilling what King believed Deverin would have wished for.

Donations can be made on the Council of Churches of the Ozarks website. The group welcomes cash as well as new or lightly used sports equipment. Equipment donations from individuals outside the area can be scheduled for pickup. 

For more information, contact Ambassadors for Children Program Coordinator Amanda Ingle at aingle@ccozarks.org

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