SALEM, Va. – Four local high school basketball teams took to the court Tuesday night honoring a friend and classmate that was shot to death last year.
Two months ago, federal authorities arrested two more people in the case surrounding Jake Aldridge, which they said centers around drug dealing. And for the second year in a row, a basketball tournament is reminding people how violence and addiction continue to impact every community.
In a night of kissing it off the glass and draining the three-ball from deep, what’s most important on the court at Patrick Henry High School is someone who can’t be here. Between the DJ on the floor, the games going on, and the snack bar in the lobby, Jake’s dad Mark made sure nothing went awry.
"We’re doing it for the Jake Aldridge Memorial Fund, it’s a fund I started after he got killed in 2018, Mark Aldridge said.
Basketball was a bond Mark Aldridge shared with his son Jake, who was a student at Salem High School. Jake was shot and killed on Eastern Avenue in Roanoke last year. In September, federal authorities arrested two more people connected to the drug ring that was involved. There are no charges yet for Jake’s killing, but his dad has followed it closely.
“You know, I thought I’d feel better for people being arrested that did this but it doesn’t bring him back, so these things here keep his name alive," Mark Aldridge said.
The Jake Aldridge Memorial Classic on Tuesday night raised money and healed in ways the justice system cannot. His alma mater, Salem High School, was one of the four teams competing, all wearing shirts with Jake’s name on it. Family and friends joined the normal fans in the stands. Dom Joyce was Jake’s friend and sat with a group of other friends to watch the games. While the pain is still real, he said being there is his therapy.
“When we’re not all together, if I’m just by myself, it just kind of gets dark. So it feels good, I look around and I know everyone here," Joyce said.
Unlike other violent crime victims, the Aldridge’s haven’t shied away from what happened to their son. Mark Aldridge has been active in the community, speaking with school families and other activists. Jake was involved in things he shouldn’t have been, he admits that. As addiction and drug use continue to cripple our communities, they want this tournament to be a reminder for everyone, that it can happen to anyone.
“Addiction, illegal drugs and also gun violence,” Mark Aldridge said. “We’ve got a huge problem here in Roanoke, Virginia for the size city that we have, we have more than our share of gun violence, that’s what I’d like to bring to light.”
Jake’s family and friends have raised $13,000 over the last year, and each year they get to make a donation to a local non-profit in Jake’s honor.