Show Of Support: Community comes together to raise funds for newborn son of slain former athlete

Luke Poindexter’s girlfriend Alexia Estep, left, is comforted by his father Kelley as they stand at center court to be recognized during a fundraising event for Luke and Alexia’s newborn before the eighth-grade boys basketball game between Northside and Central t Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. Poindexter was shot and killed while working for a delivery service in Indianapolis in October. A fundraiser was held during the games to benefit Poindexter’s newborn son.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Hundreds of fans in attendance came to watch the seventh- and eighth-grade boys of Central and Northside Middle Schools play basketball Monday night at Columbus East High School, but this year, it was much more than a basketball game.

Players, coaches, cheerleaders and the fans from both schools paid tribute and honor to someone who enjoyed playing basketball on the same court the players played on that night.

Between the seventh- and eighth-grade games, Central athletics director Nate VanDeventer presented to the family of Luke Poindexter a game ball that was signed by all the players from both schools.

Poindexter, a 2018 East graduate, was killed while working for a delivery service in Indianapolis in late October. The investigation into his death is still ongoing.

Coping with Poindexter’s unexpected death has hit his family hard over the past month, but his father Kelley said the family has received much support.

“It’s been horrible, but it’s in fact not just my family, but a lot of people around us. We had an outpouring of support from the community. We had people reach out to us that have had similar situations,” Kelley Poindexter said. “It’s been very difficult. It comes and goes. You still don’t realize that he’s gone, and you expect him to walk in the door anytime. It’s still hard to comprehend that he’s not coming home to be honest. We’ve been so busy with the birth of his son and trying to organize this fundraiser, it’s kept us busy, but going into Christmas, it’s going to be difficult, so we’re going to need the support from our family and friends.”

When learning of Luke Poindexter’s death, VanDeventer and Central eighth-grade boys basketball coach Max Bumbalough thought of the idea to organize a fundraiser to honor his life and memory. They reached out to Northside athletics director Cindy McCoy to decide that Monday’s game would be a great opportunity for the fundraiser.

VanDeventer started reaching out to businesses and sponsors. T-shirts were made for the fundraiser, and the cheerleaders, coaches and players wore them during warmups.

VanDeventer estimates that around $5,000 was raised as of Monday morning before the game, and likely between $3,000-to-$5,000 more during Monday night’s game. Possibly more money could be added based on more checks and donations being received in the mail. All of the proceeds raised will go towards a fund for Luke Poindexter’s son, Gunner James, who was born Nov. 21.

VanDeventer, a 2017 graduate of Columbus North, became friends with Poindexter following their battles on the hardwood in high school.

“One big thing I’m trying to teach since I’ve taken over and trying to change and teach to our kids is playing in this game, it’s more than the game of basketball. This could have been anyone. You never know,” VanDeventer said. “We’re trying to teach that life is bigger than a game of basketball and see how much impact you can have by playing in the game and representing Columbus and to show that Columbus is a really great community. That’s what we’re really trying to do here, and honestly show a lot of love and support for the Poindexters as well.”

Poindexter was a multiple-sport athlete at East participating in football, basketball and track and field. He also enjoyed fishing and hunting. He was on the Olympians’ state championship football team in 2017.

“Luke was a great team player. He was always about the team, and you couldn’t help but love him,” East boys basketball coach Brent Chitty said. “He had an infectious smile. He loved the game. I know I was blessed to have the opportunity to coach him. People around him would probably tell you the same thing. It was a blessing to be part of his life, and he’s got a great family.”

Kelley Poindexter mentioned that the relationship between his family and the family of his girlfriend, Alexia Estep, has been very strong. He said both families are committed to raising Gunner together as a family.

“It’s an incredible relationship. We’re together every single day, especially since the birth of Gunner. We’ll all committed We’re going to make sure that young man is raised properly,” Kelley said. “I wish Luke was here to do it, but unfortunately, he’s not, and we’re going to do our part to make sure he’s raised to be a fine young man. (Alexia) is a great young lady and even a greater mother. She’s doing an outstanding job, and we’re so proud of her. There’s no question about it, she’s the best thing that ever happened to Luke and wished he was here to experience that.”

Another local tragedy that hit Kelley hard recently was the death of 2-year-old Emma Sweet, whose body was discovered Sunday after a three-day search along the East Fork of the White River.

“One thing that’s important to me is that we really just had another tragedy with Emma, and I want to make sure that we keep her in our thoughts and prayers. It breaks my heart,” Kelley said.

Kelley also is thankful for the community coming together and having this fundraiser for Luke, Gunner and the rest of the family.

“I would like to thank Coach Bumbalough and A.D. Nate VanDeventer for putting this fundraiser together,” Kelley said. “On behalf of our son and from our family to yours, thank you so much for the outpouring love and support. I think coach Bumbalough said it best, we are all family here in Columbus.”