Sparkt Bridges

MAD DADS Keep Streets Safe Through Mentoring

This non profit has been patrolling the streets and keeping an eye on younger generations for decades.

This story is part of a bi--weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with others. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

In 1989, 20-year old Sean Foster was vicious attached at a gas station in Omaha, Nebraska by five gang members. His transgression? Having the wrong color car.

His father, John Foster, was so enraged that he loaded up two guns and went looking for his son's attackers. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and Foster didn't find them. Instead he created a group called MAD DADS to watch over the community by providing positive role models to the youths.

Since its inception, MAD DADS has expanded to become a nationwide movement. I have the privilege of sitting down with members of a chapter in Pittsburgh, PA, to discuss the impact that this group has in their community:

"I'ts about being a model o f good citizenship no matter what's going on," says George Spencer, chapter president of Greater Pittsburgh Area MAD DADS. The key element is their neighborhood stret patrol program, where the rgoup patrols "hot spots" (areas known for crime or violence) in their community. "We go there with a model of being like a surrogate dad," says Spencer. "It's not a vigilante approach... [we're not] going to out-gang the gangsters."

That doesn't meant hey won't intervene if they see violence taking place. As Spencer puts it, "we're not going to be a silent observer,"noting that they've had to step in to break up fights in the past. But equally important is lifting up those who are doing good in the community as well, praising them and providing the resources they need to continue down the right path.

A chapter meeting of MAD DADS.

MAD DADS has now grown to include over 75,000 members, a group which, despite its name, includes women and children. too. If you'd like more information on MAD DADS chapters in your area, or to learn how to start one of your own, click here.

The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC. Live Changing Medicine.

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