After tragedy, Shawn Harrington uses platform to give back to community that raised him

Shawn Harrington watches as he teaches his after-school basketball players new skills. (Max Olsan/MEDILL)

By Max Olsan
Medill Reports 

Shawn Harrington is no stranger to facing adversity. He saved his daughter’s life in a shooting that left him severely injured. Now, he is using his platform to give back to the city that raised him.



SHAWN HARRINGTON, Children of Peace after-school basketball coach: Basketball has been my first love. I grew up playing basketball my whole life. Pretty popular around this city since I was about 14-15 years old from playing basketball, playing at Marshall High School. 2014, I was on my way to work, my daughter was a sophomore at Westinghouse High School, a nearby high school. I pulled up to the corner of Augusta and Hamlin, the same route we go every day. The only difference is this day I was in a rental car instead of my own car. The car was mistaken for somebody else’s car, and two kids standing there on the corner — I call them kids because they are the same age group of kids I work with every day — I just remember them pointing at the car, and then two kids just opened up fire on me and my daughter in the car.

BRYAN MCKINNEY, a long-time friend and volunteer coach: I got a call when it happened, and I went to go see him in the hospital and he just went over the story with me. I’m like, “Wow, man, a split-second decision, you jumped in and saved your daughter’s life.” He tells me all the time, “B, if I had to do it over again, I would do it the exact same way.” 

HARRINGTON: Honestly every day is a challenge when I wake up. I make a choice every morning when I wake up, is this a good day or is this a bad day? Do I wake up mad at the world and forget everything? Most days I wake up, put my feet on the floor, get out of bed and roll with the punches.


HARRINGTON: Some of these kids worry about being ridiculed just because they are different.  But believe in yourself and trust yourself, respect each other and the sky’s the limit. Reach for the moon, it’s all right if you land amongst the stars. 

MCKINNEY: We have been doing a lot of things with the kids, not just here but in other places as well. That’s definitely a fire for him. 

HARRINGTON: You have to go from teacher mode to parent mode with the kids, especially at this age. Everybody is kind of picking at each other, or they don’t like what someone said with the kids at this level. But it is truly a joy, I love doing it, I look forward to coming, and it’s one of my highlights on Fridays. 


HARRINGTON: I always like to let kids know that just because you lost today, that doesn’t make you a loser. Because you lost today, that doesn’t make you a loser. You tried something that you probably never tried before, and you didn’t win at it or you didn’t succeed at it, but that doesn’t make you a loser. You’re still a winner in life. You just didn’t succeed today, but that doesn’t make you a loser tomorrow.


Max Olsan is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.