It was less than a month after Tyrone “Savage” Carey became a member of the Baltimore Banners ice hockey team that he scored his first goal during practice.
Pride gushed out of the 18-year-old from East Baltimore and his teammates shared in the moment.
At the end of practice that February day, he skated over to the bench to talk to his mentor and Banners program leader Noel Acton, the director of The Tender Bridge, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk boys and young men in Baltimore City.
“Hey Noel, we gotta make a movie, Noel. Show ’em what we really doing out here,” Savage said.
That declaration serves as the opening line of “Not Just a Game – The Story of Savage,” a 15-minute mini-documentary produced by 26-year-old Baltimore filmmaker Myles Banks through his Just Stunt Productions. The film premieres virtually at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“‘Not Just a Game’ is a story of a young man with a dream for a better life,” Banks said. “Savage, the main character, has had many difficulties in his household as a child which led him to the streets. But after facing the dangers of the street lifestyle, he was determined to make a better life for himself.”
The start of Savage’s life is one that is all-too familiar in Baltimore inner city neighborhoods — abuse in the home, street violence, a stretch of homelessness and no high school degree. The documentary shows his determination to overcome obstacles, both past and present, and the positive impact The Tender Bridge program, founded by Acton in 2004, has had on Savage and many other city youths.
Savage is as proud of the documentary as that first goal on the ice.
“I love it, you know,” he said.
“I’m just a person that’s trying to do right out here. So if everybody sees that and they can say ‘I’m feeling where he’s coming from’ because a lot of people know where I’m coming from, for real. So it’s going to make a lot of people choose the right way, for real.”
Savage regularly uses the phrase “for real,” and he’ll often double up, saying “for real, for real,” mostly at the end of his statements. He is just that, and Banks made sure the documentary portrays his story that way.
While squeegee kids have been a controversial topic in Baltimore in recent years, Savage says that squeegeeing provides him with food and keeps him out of trouble. It’s at the corner of Gay and Orleans Streets where he met Acton, who occasionally stops by to give the kids advice on how to professionally approach potential customers to make more money.
Savage, who now has his own place, made an immediate impression on Acton, who urged him to come play for the hockey team.
Once Savage took to the ice, he was sold.
“He was so quick to want to learn everything. He was flying around the ice, falling all over the place because he wanted to get as good as the other skaters,” said Antoine Greene, a volunteer coach, equipment coordinator and director of the two-year-old Bridge to Independence (BTI) program.
“And then the awesome part of it was he thought so much of the program, he brought his younger brother into the program and he loves it just as much. We’re very happy to see that because that will help Savage along in his life and he’s bringing along his brother and that will be just as great.”
While hockey — which takes place from November to March — and the other sports the program offers, including football and sailing, help entice the 30 or so participants and keeps them engaged year round, it’s the mentors and the relationships that are formed that are most important.
Each participant is mentored by the same coach throughout their time in the program. That coach picks them up and drives them to practice or games, and they enjoy a group meal — often pizzas or burgers — before they are driven home.
The one-on-one bonding time builds trust, and the dinners provides camaraderie.
“I love all the coaches, love all the coaches,” Savage said. “Yeah, it’s a blessing.”
Acton said that the documentary came across perfect in showing how the program makes a difference in the kids’ lives.
“A lot of these kids have a lot of potential, but they have so many challenges from being screwed up during their childhood that it’s really tough,” he said.
“For instance, Savage. If he was brought up in a normal home, he would not be down there doing squeegee work, he would be in college probably on a scholarship. And when you look at the kid that way, you can’t help but feel you need to reach out and do something for him. It’s just completely unfair what happens to these kids. Impossible situation and they still try hard. So when a kid does succeed, it really amazes me.”
For Banks, the project quickly became a labor of love, shooting on and off for three months before spending a week editing the footage. In early March at the Mimi DiPietro Skating Center in Patterson Park, he filmed the Banners’ 7-6 win over the Baltimore Sentinels, a team of police officers and first-responders. Savage followed up his goal at practice with an even bigger goal in the victory. Other footage showed Savage doing his thing on the squeegee block and visiting his neighborhood.
“Savage is a super bright young man and to tell his life story, it was amazing and inspiring as a film director and producer. But it was also inspiring to give hope to other kids that are in similar situations as him,” Banks said.