BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s spending board on Wednesday approved a $345,000 settlement with the family of Elijah Gorham, a Mervo student who died last year of a head injury suffered during a football game.
The Board of Estimates unanimously voted in favor of the settlement, 5-0.
As part of the settlement, the school system is taking steps to increase safety for student-athletes, said Joshua Civin, chief legal officer for Baltimore City Public Schools.
Over the next three school years, Baltimore City Public Schools will hire athletic trainers for every high school and a health professional to oversee safety initiatives for the Interscholastic Athletics program, work with the Baltimore City Fire Department and local hospitals to enhance ambulance response times, and provide additional training for coaches on concussions, heat strokes and other injuries, he said.
“You don’t want to waste any time at all,” Shantres Shaw, Elijah Gorham’s mother, told WJZ Wednesday.
Shaw said it took an hour to transport her son to the hospital after he collapsed on the sideline following a collision Sept. 18 against Dunbar.
“I don’t want them to stop playing a game that they love. But, I also want them to play safely . . . and also be aware of their teammates as well,” Shaw said.
Gorham’s parents had input on the new measures and will be invited to participate in training sessions with student-athletes, he said.
Mayor Brandon Scott, a Mervo alumnus, said the settlement and the steps being taken to increase safety for high school athletes are a way to honor the senior wide receiver.
“I think this is just one small way that we can keep this young man’s legacy going on forever in the City of Baltimore,” the mayor said.
Shaw plans to use a portion of her settlement to start a foundation to advocate for player safety.
Shaw says the family will establish the 7 Strong Foundation to plan an annual youth football tournament and ensure athletes are properly fitted for equipment.
“I don’t want them to stop playing a game that they love, but, I also want them to play safely and also be aware of their teammates as well,” Shaw said.
Gorham, a 17-year-old student-athlete for Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, died Oct. 11, 2021, roughly three weeks after he collapsed following a collision with another player during Mervo’s Sept. 18 matchup against Dunbar High School.
“He loved the game,” Shaw said,” And when you have a passion for what you love, you give it your all, and that’s what he did.”
During the game, Gorham and a defender both went for a pass in the end zone, and Gorham, “unable to break his fall with his hands, was driven into the ground face-first by the momentum of the play, with the defender landing on top of him,” City Solicitor James Shea wrote in a memo on the settlement. After remaining on the ground for some time, he got up and ran to the sideline, where he collapsed and began seizing, Shea wrote.
Gorham was transported to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center for treatment.
“He loved the game,” Shaw said. “And, when you have a passion for what you love, you give it your all and that’s what he did.”
Following his death, the Mustangs dedicated the remainder of the season to their teammate and went on to win the 4A/3A State Championship Football game against Dundalk, 22-13.
“Through adversity, oftentimes, people come closer,” head football coach and athletic director Patrick Nixon said in December. “I think we’ve come a lot closer because of the loss of Elijah.”