I write these thoughts first as a father, but also as the head of an organization whose mission is to guide, grow and protect kids on their paths to adulthood. I can’t stand back as an observer to offer only my own concern and condolences to victims and their families.
This horrific act of violence in Broward County, Florida—and the resulting news cycle of shock, mourning, anger, numbness and then, in a sickening way, normalcy—this all has to stop.
Boys & Girls Clubs, along with our peer organizations that serve millions of America’s youth, have long played a prominent role in developing our kids into productive adults. Our services can go a long way to prevent an at-risk kid from going down a path that could lead to such an unspeakable act as what occurred yesterday.
Today, in our thousands of Clubs nationwide, we are reemphasizing our strict safety measures, including a six-step safety plan, as well as providing counsel to kids, who are understandably confused and scared. But we don’t pretend we can do it alone. Protection and prevention can only happen when a community comes together with a unified voice.
As a next step, I will be reaching out to my peers at other youth-serving organizations to convene a meeting to immediately begin addressing not just a collective opinion on the issues leading to violence, but specific actions we can take together to propose, influence and implement programs and policies to ensure that the kids we care for—and our own kids—can live without fear and in safety. And just be kids.