COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wedgewood Village Apartments has been the location of shootings and homicides in recent years.
“They are not in the best place right now. Everywhere they look around, it's not a lot of good things going on in the neighborhood,” said Aden Mohamed.
Mohamed grew up in the Wedgewood neighborhood on the city's west side, where Columbus Police Commander Scott Hyland was stationed.
According to Hyland, the first half of 2017 was a violent year for the neighborhood.
That same year, he, Mohamed, and several others came together to figure out what they could do for kids in the area to help give them any advantage they could.
That's when they started the Hilltop Tiger soccer team. It's a program that started in the complex to help kids stay out of trouble.
“I'd stop, jump out of the car and I would play soccer with them, 10-15 minutes and they got to know me, they got to know Commander,” Hyland said.
At first many of the kids didn't even have shoes to play with.
“It was a perfect fit to put a soccer program together to help these young people and give them an opportunity to do something positive, have positive mentors,” Hyland said.
Co-Director Siyat Mohamed says having mentors like Hyland, a police officer the kids grew to know and love, has made a lasting impact.
“It really shows [police officers] are human, they are no different than us. They serve and protect," Siyat said. "They see someone like Commander Hyland come out to the community, even though I'm a commander in the police force, understand that I'm here with you."
Now, it's the kids' turn to be there for the commander.
Hyland was diagnosed with throat cancer over the summer, which has sidelined the commander.
He begins radiation next week. Hyland says he has a tough fight ahead, but has a good prognosis.
“Mentally it's been somewhat of a rollercoaster for me,” he admitted.
The soccer team has its first annual tournament this weekend to raise money for the club and will keep their mentor in their hearts, and on their backs.
“Whether it's one goal, or win a game or a championship, possibly with my name on their shirts, I can't even begin to tell you how humbling and uplifting for me it has been,” Hyland said.
The soccer tournament is Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Hyland says he'll be in the stands wearing his jersey proudly.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9 paid for all the jerseys with Hyland’s name on the back.
If you are interested in donating to the club, you can click here.
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