Ralph Carter, We Are Linden host tailgates at Linden football games

Ralph Carter was a man on a mission.

With a bullhorn in one hand and a constantly-ringing phone in the other, Carter encouraged every person who passed him as they entered Linden-McKinley’s football stadium to stop and see what he was doing.

Carter, the 36-year-old founder of We Are Linden, recently added tailgates at Linden football games to his ever-growing list of community events, which also includes an annual block party.

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Before Linden beat Centennial 40-8 on Sept. 23, dozens of community members stopped at Carter’s tailgate for a free We are Linden T-shirt, a hot dog or to share a moment of engagement with Carter.

“We’re trying to build more safe havens and safe spaces for the community, for the young people to come,” Carter said. “We want it to be, when there’s a Linden home game, you’re gonna come out and bring the family out to it. … The kids enjoy it, too. They enjoy knowing that somebody cares about them or is gonna go the extra mile to try to do stuff for them.”

We Are Linden founder Ralph Carter at the Linden-McKinley High School tailgate before the homecoming football game against Centennial High School on Sept.  23.

The tailgate occupied half of the parking lot next to Linden’s stadium, with music blaring from a speaker, volunteers handing out T-shirts and members of the Linden Eagles Alumni Group grilling hot dogs to feed everyone in attendance. If anyone tried to walk past without stopping, Carter and his bullhorn leapt into action.

Whether Carter called them out by name or simply exuded enough energy to make saying no an impossibility, many who attempted to ignore the tailgate were drawn in. Carter’s goal is that eventually, the tailgate will draw in the entire community, packing the parking lot like the tailgates at Ohio State University football games.

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