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Big Red grad Lavender focused on giving back

STEUBENVILLE — Ja’Quan Lavender closed one chapter of his life as he has embarked on a new journey.

Lavender, a graduate of Big Red, began the Ja’Quan Lavender Foundation in 2020. The mission of the foundation “will focus upon supporting and empowering at risk youth and adults with pursuing their hopes and dreams, and achieve their full potential.”

Lavender decided to start his own foundation while he was still in college.

“The foundation was established in 2020,” Lavender said. “I thought about creating it in 2019 when I was in college.”

Lavender has decided to end his track career in favor of helping out the local community.

“I have retired,” Lavender said. “I have hung up my spikes. I just want to focus on my foundation. I want to do things to help people in the community. I have stepped down from track, and now I just want to do my part.”

The decision was not an easy one.

“It was tough. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the best decision I could have made. I want to be able to help the community. I had to step up. I want to make a difference.”

The foundation held “The Journey To Gold Youth Olympic Fun Day” on a sunny and hot Saturday afternoon at the Harding track. This is the first year of the event, and Lavender plans on making it an annual event.

“The first year is always tough,” Lavender said. “You have to get experience. Once you get that out of the way and you get your feet wet, I believe the second annual will be even better.”

Planning for the event began several months ago.

“We started planning this in March,” Lavender said. “It has been a whole bunch of work. We have had meetings and we have been planning things. We had to get the approval of the school board and the city for certain things. There has been a whole bunch of working going into this.”

Participants took part in activities on and off the track. On the track, the younger children took part in the 50-yard dash, while the older kids took part in the 100. The top three finishers in each of the finals races received a medal.

“I want to keep expanding it. I want to be able to do a lot of good things for the community. I want to meet and talk with the young men – not just at Steubenville High School but kids all over the county.”

The Olympic Fun Day is just one of the things the foundation is looking to do for the community.

“I want to do a lot of things,” Lavender said. “I am thinking about having a Back to School Bash before school starts back. There are some other things I would like to do, but I definitely want to do a Back to School Bash before school starts back. I want to be able to give kids bookbags and maybe shoes. I just want to help anyway that I can.”

Lavender has received support from people and places far and wide.

“It is amazing,” Lavender said about all the support he and his foundation has received. “I have gotten support from all over. I have gotten support from people from Texas, Florida and New York. We want to keep expanding this throughout the United States. I just want to keep expanding and doing good things.”

Some of those supporters were on site Saturday.

“I want to thank Chick-fil-A, the Urban Mission, Fresh Twist, Beyond Kids LLC, Trinity Health and Desperado Dogs,” Lavender said. “We have a lot of local supporters. I want to thank for all they have done.”

The track at Harding holds a special place in Lavender’s heart, and he wants to make it a special place for the youth of the area.

“I have spent a lot of time here,” Lavender said. “It is really nice. I am really happy to see they did something with the track. The track teams prospered during the high school season. It is nice to see what they have done with the track. It has been long overdue.”

Saturday was a success and with the first event out of the way, Lavender can turn his attention to the future.

“I want this to continue to grow,” he said. “I want this to be something fun and for people to have a good time. This is the first time we have had this, and I think it will continue to grow.”

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