Think of the sounds at a paintball fight. Splash, plop, thud as the rainbow of paint colors hit the targets. This was afternoon fun at the "Health Happens Here: Male by Birth, Man by Choice" camp. Learning, sharing, and bonding is the work of the young men who attend the weekend camp held each year under the collaboration of Brotherhood Crusade, Why Can’t We Make a Difference Foundation and their collaborative partners. The group of 75 students is led by a team of 25 men who volunteer for this weekend to help change the lives of the youth who attend. From ethics to etiquette, mixed with hiking and lots of fun in the woods that surround the camp, the boys enjoy time away from their everyday, and sometimes difficult, lives.
Southwest Airlines is a long-time supporter of Brotherhood Crusade. I visited the camp to see the great work the organization is doing in transforming the lives of our young males. The camp is unique because it combines everyday need-to-know skills with the power of male mentors who show the students they are there to support them in their life journey.
During my visit, I spent time with a remarkable young man called Lazarrius. He had experienced troubles in his past but turned his life around through his desire to be a role model for his younger nephews and by learning to do the right thing. Lazarrius no doubt, is just one example of the work Brotherhood Crusade, Why Can’t We Make a Difference, and their partners are doing for the students. The organizations realize that adult role models are the key to guiding young and mainly fatherless male students on the road to success.
I left before the paintball challenge began but as the plane took off on my travel home, I could almost hear the students at the camp squeal and yell as they struck each other with the paint guns. I also reminisced about their stories of the time they had spent there, complete with sightings of two small bears.
As the plane reached altitude, I thought of the mentors who were the silent heroes of the day, simply doing what they felt was the right thing to do but making a huge impact in the lives of every student who attended the camp. Who knows, perhaps in a few years we will see some of the students return in the role of mentor showing the truly lasting effect of the "Health Happens Here: Male by Birth, Man by Choice" camp. For now, it does my heart good to know the students were relishing in a safe environment that shows the male mentors truly are making a difference.
Southwest Airlines The California Endowment South Los Angeles Building Healthy Communities Why Can’t We Make a Difference Foundation Brotherhood Crusade California Community Foundation (BLOOM and Preparing Achievers for Tomorrow) Weingart YMCA L.A.’s Promise Peace Over Violence Para Los Ninos LAUSD District 7 LAPD Southeast Police Athletic League