Hope Dealer

Hope Dealer:

I want to tell you about a Hope Dealer. A Difference Maker. His name is Ricky Aiken. My amazing godson.

I met Ricky when he was about 13 or 14 years old. He was a inner-city kid trying to find his way in life. I was a white guy from the suburbs trying to make a difference. A unlikely pair, but we just clicked. Fast forward a lot of years and Ricky has more than found his way and is making a major difference in his community. Ricky founded Inner City Innovators and is a leader of change in his community. I believe what Ricky is doing will go beyond West Palm Beach and Florida. Ricky is changing the culture of the inner-city. He is showing people that the inner-city is more than what they see on the news. Laura West Shoemaker and I are so proud of Ricky. We think of Ricky as our son. We are excited to see what he is going to do next. Ricky is truly a Difference Maker. A Hope Dealer. ~OC

My Hero, The Hope Dealer

Last night, Laura and I had the honor of attending the first Inner City Innovators Gala to celebrate the young men who this amazing organization helps. It was also a time to celebrate one of my heroes Mr. Ricky Aiken. Let me tell you about my hero.

I met Ricky when he was about 14 or 15 years old. I was volunteering with a great organization Urban Youth Impact at the time. Ricky and I just hit it off. I think it was our mutual love for books and sports. You know God is real when he brings a Boston Celtics fan and a LA Lakers fan together. As happens in life, we lost contact for a brief period. When Ricky turned 18 we reconnected around his birthday. My wife had heard about Ricky and wanted to celebrate his birthday. Oh, did we celebrate. My wife had a blast taking Ricky shopping. I think Ricky might have been a little overwhelmed by Laura’s enthusiasm, but he indulged her. That day Ricky became Laura’s son. It is a relationship that has continued to grow throughout the years. Laura still loves celebrating Ricky’s birthday.

Back in 2015, one of Ricky’s friends was shot and killed. For Ricky that was the last straw. He could no longer sit around and watch his community be destroyed by gun violence. That is when Inner City Innovators was born. Ricky has become a leader in his community. A leader in his city. And I believe in time, a national leader. This from a young man labeled emotionally disabled by the educational system. How I wish the person who made that incorrect diagnosis could see Ricky now. To see the Man he has become. The Leader he has become. The Hope Dealer he has become.

I could go on and on about my godson and the man he has become. Laura and I are so proud of him. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves when we see all that Ricky has accomplished in life. We are thankful God has blessed us with a front row sit. I pray that one day, Ricky will write a book and share his amazing story with the world. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to check out Inner City Innovators at http://www.innercityinnovators.org.

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