Thursday, June 29, 2017 This Week's Paper

Teen’s spirit lives on

// Family, friends and community gather to celebrate Billy Ray Shirley Day

During his short life, Billy Ray Shirley III did what he could to help his community and encourage other youth to do the same. At age 17, Shirley was murdered a year ago, but his spirit lives on among his many relatives and friends.

Shirley was involved in a volunteer program called Peace Out. It rallied teenagers to raise money for worthy causes and do projects to improve their neighborhoods.

Tacoma City Council issued a proclamation recognizing Aug. 27 as Billy Ray Shirley Day. It was on this date last year that Shirley was fatally shot at a motorcycle club party at a warehouse in Nalley Valley. He had gone there with a group of friends to check in on someone else. The shooter has not been caught.

After the murder his mother, Shalisa Hayes, started the Billy Ray Shirley Foundation. Under the name “Team Billy Ray” a group of his relatives and friends have banded together to do volunteer work and raise funds for a future community center on the East Side.

A gathering was held at Lister Elementary School on the East Side on Aug. 25 to celebrate the young life that was tragically cut short. Young children played in a bouncy house and had their faces painted. Some participated in tug of war and other games.

His cousin Shalea Arnold of Seattle took a brief turn operating the face-painting booth, where she decorated her sister’s face.

The event is a way for Shirley’s supporters to stay focused and for kids to keep busy. “We are giving them something positive to do,” she remarked.

About $5,000 has been raised toward establishing a community center. “It is still our dream to make that come true,” Arnold said.

Arnold said her cousin would be proud of his mother, other relatives and the many youth who are carrying on the good work he cared so much about. Some of the teens were friends of his while others were not. “His mom is working hard to keep his memory alive.”

Hayes was pleased with the turnout. “I am very happy. We had more than I expected,” she said.

She noted that among the East Side residents who stopped by were Tacoma City Councilmember Marty Campbell and Tacoma School Board member Catherine Ushka.

She said her son would be happy about the event. “I can see him smiling right now,” Hayes remarked.