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Starting a movement

Basketball player forms a second family for those who need one most

Michael Gorman founded a group, The Movement Family, that brings hope to kids in Lawrence, Massachusetts, labeled by Boston Magazine as “the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts.”

Michael Gorman spent half of his winter break as many college basketball players do: visiting with his parents, his sister and foster brother at his childhood home on the edge of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

He spent the other half with a different family – a group he calls The Movement Family. Some of its members lack a stable home. They may not have food. They may be escaping from troubles with drugs and other social indignities. Gorman led those kids – ranging from age 8 to 25 – under a bridge where many of Lawrence’s homeless live. They set up a small Christmas tree and opened presents. And they talked about life, their hopes and their struggles.

Gorman left that underpass to return to Anna Maria College, where the senior averaged 5.3 assists as a starting point guard while working on his degree in social work with a concentration on drug addiction. But whenever a season ends, his game plan focuses on other assists.

“It’s a family,” Gorman says of The Movement Family. “We started friends, and we became family. We help each other in life and help each other succeed.”

Sleeping under bridges and finding food were never Gorman’s childhood concerns. His family was stable; his siblings close. But growing up on the edge of Lawrence – a city whose failed schools and soaring crime led Boston Magazine to label it “the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts” – trouble was readily visible. Some friends turned to drugs and gangs by middle school. He saw friends die before exiting high school.

So when Gorman left for nearby Anna Maria four years ago, he chose to get more involved with the world he left behind. He gathered a group of 10 troubled kids – some high school dropouts, others involved in gangs. He started with a plan to get them active by jogging through the city together and pushing one another in workouts. Gorman organized car washes and used the money to take the kids bowling or other activities.

Gorman has provided a family for many homeless and struggling residents of his hometown, giving them the type of close relationships that Gorman has with his own friends and family, including close friend Georges Niang (left), who plays basketball at Iowa State.

Word of the group spread, and 30 kids could be seen at all the events. They cleaned up parks, went caroling at Christmas and visited prison inmates. Nearly 300 kids have participated in The Movement Family’s summer projects during the past four years.

“You just see a difference in the decision-making, or the way they treat others,” he said. “When you see them helping someone in the street, it makes them feel good inside. You can see, wow, these kids are really changing inside.”

Connecting with people in need can be trying: Two friends were recently lost to drug addictions. Gorman wrote their names on his sneakers to honor their memory during an Anna Maria basketball game. But the rewards are uplifting: Last fall, Gorman reconnected a homeless woman with her family in Chicago, whom she hadn’t seen in 10 years. She’s been rebuilding since and is now looking for a job.

Eventually, Gorman hopes to convert one of the abandoned mills in Lawrence into a facility for The Movement Family and provide his friends with a consistent place to escape. For now, he hopes to make a difference – one talk, one car wash or one Christmas tree at a time.