Dona Smith couldn't save her son Steve.
He took his own life in November 2011 at the age of 31. Smith is hoping the proceeds from the first Steve Smith 3-on-3 memorial basketball tournament in July can make a difference for someone else.
“People don't want to talk about suicide, but I think they need to, and how it affects the people around them,” Smith said.
The 3-on-3 tournament has divisions for third through 12th graders and has competitive and recreational divisions for adults. It runs July 19 to 21 at the Nebraska Elite Sports and Fitness Academy in Omaha. Money raised from registration will help kids in need throughout the community.
Dona Smith already has financed a year of tuition for a student at Jesuit Middle School with some of the proceeds from memorials after her son's death. She and her son helped coach youngsters at the school, and the eighth-grader was one of her son's favorites.
Smith is a longtime region director of the Hoop It Up tournament and said Steve was her right-hand man.
They had talked about holding an event to mark the 20th year of Dona Smith coaching youth basketball. Now Smith, once a volunteer basketball assistant at Omaha South, is organizing a different event.
Some of her son's former teammates, who began playing together when they were in eighth grade, plan to play in the memorial tournament, as well as people she's met in other cities through her nine years with Hoop It Up.
Along with the tournament, a Save A Life Expo is planned. Representatives of the Red Cross Blood Bank and the Center for Organ Recovery will be on hand, as well as others to talk about things like texting and driving, bullying and youth suicide awareness.
“Anywhere people can save a life,” Smith said.
Planning the tournament is helping to keep Dona Smith's life on track.
“The only thing that keeps me going,” she said, “is doing this in his memory.”