An Upper Arlington sixth-grader will host a local dodgeball tournament this weekend to raise money to help link troubled men to resources for rebuilding their lives.

An Upper Arlington sixth-grader will host a local dodgeball tournament this weekend to raise money to help link troubled men to resources for rebuilding their lives.

Max Gillum, a sixth-grader at Hastings Middle School, steadfastly believes the struggles that arise in people's lives -- whether through circumstance or faulty decisions -- deserve at least an opportunity for redemption.

That is why, inspired by a community service learning program called See Kids Dream, he organized a local dodgeball tournament last year that recruited Upper Arlington elementary school and middle school students to battle it out and raise money to benefit Faith Mission, a 24-hour emergency shelter with two Columbus locations that serves up to 199 men and 38 women in need.

This year, Max is bringing his event back in a bigger -- and he hopes better -- way.

Dodgeball Tournament II will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Upper Arlington High School.

Registration, available at tinyurl.com/hastingsdodgeball, remains open up to the beginning of the event for students in grades 1-7 who attend Upper Arlington schools and St. Agatha School.

Teams of six to nine players can compete in three divisions: grades 1-3, 4-5 and 6-7.

Through the $7 entry fee for participants, as well as donations Max hopes to collect through the SignUpGenius.com link and at the event, his goal is to raise $5,000 this year to aid the Refuge, a Columbus-based Christian community organization dedicated to rebuilding the lives of men who have struggled with drugs, alcohol and other addictions, or just feel hopeless and lost.

"I feel like people should get a second chance," the 12-year-old Max said last week.

Tom Thompson, executive director and founder of the Refuge, called Max "an amazing young man."

"The commitment he has to this great cause and major epidemic of drug and heroin use is beyond words," Thompson said. "Most people turn their heads and talk about the issues. Max put a plan into action to be part of the solution."

Even before establishing the tournament, Max organized a 50-50 raffle that raised $2,500 to benefit Columbus-area homeless services.

Last year, he raised $2,800 through the first dodgeball tournament -- which attracted more than 300 participants -- and his grandfather provided a donation that helped him make his $5,000 goal.

He said he learned a lot from organizing the event with the help of his father, Bryan Gillum, including that it's such a large task that this year he won't attempt to both play in and run the tournament.

"Last year, I felt like my dad did all the work," he said. "This year, it feels like I'm doing it."

If he can raise $5,000 for the Refuge, the money will go toward the $15,000 it takes for one person to complete up to eight months of rehabilitation services that include substance-abuse treatment, a work program and a trip to the Ohio countryside to help reinforce other organization programming.

Max said he is particularly interested in helping the Refuge because it's a small organization that needs funding assistance and because the men it serves work to finance the other $10,000 needed for their rehabilitation.

"It gives a hand up instead of a handout," he said. "They have to work and they learn communications skills."

Thanks to the tournament, Max said he's developed a better understanding of people from all walks of life and how various social issues and societal ills can adversely affect people and communities.

He said he's also developed his own leadership skills and has become more comfortable speaking to adults and in front of crowds.

His mother, Andra Gillum, agreed, adding she's been pleasantly surprised to see her son take an interest in people and problems facing communities.

"I'm just so impressed he has the motivation to do this," she said. "He works so hard on it.

"I'm just so proud of him. We'd love to have a big turnout."

Andra Gillum those who don't play can support the event by signing up to volunteer for jobs such as collecting fees and announcing matchups at the event's various courts.

"My goal is for the Upper Arlington community to have a stronger bond, and I'd like to raise as much money as possible," Max said. "If you're not interested in playing, you can always help out some way.

"It's a lot of fun and it's great to know we're helping people and making the world better."

@ThisWeekNate