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Danielle and Juanita Thomas said Melvin was determined, passionate, had a zeal for life and children and loved basketball.

TOLEDO, Ohio — As of Wednesday, Toledo has had 49 in homicides 2022. 25 of those victims’ killers have not yet been caught.

Each of those 49 victims had a life that was cut short, bringing an abrupt and violent end to their story.

In the case of 27-year-old Melvin Thomas, Toledoans involved in the local basketball community knew him for the work he did to help children and young adults keep their heads in the game and stay out of trouble.

While This life ended on Sept. 9 when he was shot in north Toledo, his family still has a story to share.

“I just have to take it moment by moment,” his sister, Danielle, said. “He hasn’t left me.”

“I just hear him in my head,” his mother, Juanita, said.

Over 40 days have passed since he was killed, and his family has been struggling to adapt to life without him.

“Our faith in God and prayer is what is getting me through,” Juanita said.

And remembering the traits that made Melvin Thomas Jr. who he was has also been an important part of moving on since his death. Danielle and Juanita said he was determined, passionate, had a zeal for life and children, loved basketball, and was an awesome addition to the Thomas family.

“Melvin was the first mother’s day baby at Toledo hospital,” Juanita said. “I can remember my daughter saying she was going to call him knucklehead. Those are the memories we have with him.”

But, Juanita said it’s hard to talk about her son without talking about his dad, Melvin Thomas Sr., who died in 2020.

“He didn’t just have his name, they had the same tenacity,” Danielle said. “They had the same charm. They had the same smile. They could hug you in a way that would stop you in your tracks and make whatever was wrong, okay.”

For Danielle, her brother will always be a physical representation of love.

“My best friend,” she said. “He was love. He is love.” “

Together, she said her brother and father made memories that will live on.

It’s hard for me to talk about them in the past tense because what they left is very much so still alive for me,” Danielle said,

Melvin Jr.’s memories come in many forms: his work in the community, his passion for making the world a better place and basketball.

Juanita said he was practically playing ball before he was walking.

“I’ve never known him not to be really happy when he was playing ball, happy when he and his dad would have conversations about basketball,” she said, “I didn’t remember a time when he didn’t like basketball.”

His love for basketball translated to FOCUS3D, a program where he trained young athletes to be leaders on the court and off the court.

“Nowhere in FOCUS3D is there a basketball,” Juanita said. “It was about education, effort, and execution. I’m not a ballplayer, I can’t teach a euro step, I can’t do any of those things.”

The work he put into teaching basketball has left many students of his that Danielle and Juanita can look at to see the fruits of their loved one’s labor.

“My brother did not leave me nieces or nephews, but he did leave me a whole slew of kids to love on,” Danielle said. “I can have this much love in my heart still because it wouldn’t hurt so bad if it didn’t feel so good.”

The mother and daughter ensured his legacy would not end with his death either. Danielle and Juanita have now taken over FOCUS3D and will continue with the basketball camps.

This year’s camp will be held in his honor on Dec. 29 at Toledo Christian.

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