The Visionaries

Jimmy Sanders grew up on the west side of Chicago, where from a young age he was forced to negotiate issues poverty, drugs, crime, and gun violence. Despite all this, he was an All-City and All-State star at Westinghouse High School. Jimmy’s team won two city championships and advanced to the Final Four in the Illinois state tournament twice.

Jimmy had his sights set on playing in the NBA, but his basketball career was cut short when he tore his rotator cuff. After realizing that he would not be able to continue playing basketball, he decided to help his community through basketball, starting with modest tournaments and outdoor camps that featured his handmade t-shirts. Today, Jimmy Sanders is one of the city’s premier basketball referees.

Jimmy is pictured below being entered into Westinghouse High School's hall of fame. Throughout his high school carreer, Sanders scored 1,325 points, and was a 2-time all state, all city, and all area basketball player. 

Jimmy Sanders

Shawn Harrington also grew up in “K-Town” on the west side of Chicago. A star point guard at Marshall High School, he appeared in the classic documentary film “Hoop Dreams.”  Shawn went on to a great career at Mineral Area JC, New Mexico State, and Northwest Missouri. After earning his degree in Communications, he returned to Chicago after the birth of his daughter. He became an assistant coach at Marshall, and soon began working with Special Education kids as Educational Support Personnel. He also operated a scouting service that helped countless high school basketball players in the area get college scholarships.

In January of 2014 Shawn was the victim of a mistaken-identity shooting. Although he saved his daughter’s life that morning, the incident left him paralyzed. Since the shooting, he has become one of Chicago’s leading voices in the anti-gun and nonviolence movements in the city. He is now a Restorative Justice Counselor at Marshall, working with at-risk kids.  Shawn is also the subject of the forthcoming book, “All the Dreams We’ve Dreamed: a Story of Hoops and Handguns on Chicago’s West Side” (Chicago Review Press, 2018).

Shawn is pictured below speaking at Marshall High School, his alma mater. 

Shawn Harrington


Origins of Hoops for Peace

In 2005, after a spree of gun violence in his neighborhood, Jimmy Sanders went to a nearby church parking lot, got two basketball rims, put tape on the ground, and started the first ever Free Throw Classic. As the violence escalated over the years, he decided to expand, and he founded the Hall of Fame Classic. After Shawn Harrington was shot, Jimmy reached out to his old friend to work together using basketball as a bridge to peace and education. The Hall of Fame Classic began to gain traction, and was rebranded recently as the Hoops for Peace Classic.

In 2017, Athletes United for Peace, a United Nations NGO partnered with Jimmy and Shawn to help bring International Recognition to their work in Chicago. AUP helped organize and gain sponsorship for the tournament.