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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 8, 1998)
PHIL YOAKUM, a MAD DADS volunteer, has a “serious” discussion with Michael Lott, 4, about what Michael can play next at the MAD DADS safe night.
DADS from page 1
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son, he loaded two guns - a .357- and .44-caliber
Magnum - and went looking for the men responsi
Foster wandered the streets for hours without
finding the gang.
At home his rage cooled, and Foster called
together several other strong, drug-free fathers
from the neighborhood.
The men discussed some of the problems fac
ing youths today - drugs, violence and gangs - and
then they decided to act.
In October 1989, Foster and 17 other men
formed MAD DADS, Men Against Destruction -
Defending Against Drugs and Social disorder, to
be a proactive force in the community.
“We started out of pain - the pam of our chil
dren dying in the streets of their communities,”
according to the group’s Web page.
“We were - and still are - tired of looking into
the eyes of hollow youth who lacked hope and who
had ceased to dream.”
National President Eddie Staton said that after
Foster's expenence, he and the other fathers finally
got mad enough to do something about the prob
“There are a lot of good kids stuck in bad situ
ations,” Staton said.
MAD DADS was created to reach out to such
children and teen-agers and guide them down the
right path with strong male role models."We are
about building America's families,” Staton said,
“but unlike politicians, we turn rhetonc into reali
In 1990, Staton approached the Rev. Don
Coleman about starting a MAD DADS chapter in
“We try to find someone who is already a
leader in the community to start a chapter,” Staton
said, “someone God has given a heart for children,
and Don is that.”
When Coleman started the Lincoln MAD
DADS, he opened up his heart for children and
started to give.
Staton said that Coleman quickly demonstrat
ed he was an effective leader with the chapter’s
organization. Then he started to take on multiple
projects in the community.
One of Coleman’s first major projects was to
get the Arr Park West Recreation Center reopened.
The Lincoln Parks and Recreation department
told Coleman it had closed the center because there
weren’t enough children using it to keep it open.
But Coleman proved them wrong.
At first the city charged Coleman rent and
required him to hire an off-duty police officer for
So Coleman began having children sign in
every Saturday night, and he made sure that those
75 to 100 signatures were on the desks of City
Councilwomen Colleen Seng and Cindy Wilson
and the mayor.
Before long, the city government took notice,
and Coleman persuaded then-Mayor Mike
Johanns to put Air Park back into the budget.
Now the recreation center is open full time, and
MAD DADS' Saturday night activities attract a
crowd of 80 to 125.
Coleman said the recreation center is a safe
place for children to hang out. and have fun where
they know “they’re all part of a family.”
“We want them all to know that everybody is
somebody here,” Coleman said. “They don’t all get
that at home.”
While they are at the recreation center, the chil
dren and teens, ranging m age from 5 to 18, know
that violence, drugs and alcohol are not allowed.
“With a lot of the kids, I just give them a look,
and they know (to behave),” Coleman said.
Phil Yoakum, one of the five regular MAD
DADS volunteers watching the more than 100
children each week, said “whenever kids get
unruly, Coleman takes care of it.”
“We don’t rule with a heavy hand,” Coleman
said. “We rule with the hand of love.”
While the children are there, the MAD DADS
also work in classes to teach responsibility, trust
worthiness and basic values.
The classes are usually targeted at different age
groups so relevant issues can be addressed.
MAD DADS offers the children support to
make the right decisions in their lives and strive for
something better, Coleman's 27-year-old son. Tun,
"I had a lot of support growing up,” said Tim
Coleman, now a successful Broadway performer.
"That's what these kids don’t have.”
As part of the weekly Air Park activities,
Coleman tries to incorporate community policing
by inviting Lincoln police officers to interact with
the children on a positive basis.
Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady said he sup
ports MAD DADS, but he wishes that the program
could be bigger and do more.
“Week in and week out, these kids have contact
with good solid adults - someone who cares,”
But to the children, it’s just fun.
“1 come here because it’s open at night, and I
don’t get bored,” 14-year-old Justin Gallat said.
For Coleman, it is about giving them some
thing they might not get at home.
“I hate to think what these kids go through at
home,” he said reflectively. “There are so many
“So we spoil them while they’re here, but they
leave with something: They know somebody
cares, and they have fun.”
Local groups hold safe nights for youth
By Josh Funk
Senior staff writer
MAD DADS aren't the only ones working
to keep Lincoln's children safe.
Three other community groups also spon
sor safe night activities similar to MAD
DADS' Saturday nights at the Air Park West
A safe night activity is a fun event for chil
dren, usually at a recreation center, that
includes some education about responsibility
and basic values.
Locally, safe nights sponsored by MAD
DADS, the F Street Recreation Center, the
Salvation Army and the YWCA are coordinat
ed by the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health
Department, Injury Prevention Program
Coordinator Brian Baker said.
“Sate nights are a proactive measure to
prevent some of the problems larger cities
experience,” Baker said.
“People realize we have it pretty good here
in Lincoln, and they want to keep it that way.”
The idea originated in Milwaukee, where
the program has had tremendous success.
“Safe nights are held for high-risk youth in
specific neighborhoods,” Baker said.
Safe nights can be a one-time or regular
event, but they all have three simple rules: no
drugs, no weapons and no arguing.
“Each night is different to reach different
kids,” Baker said. “We focus on certain issues
with different groups.”
For June 5, 1999, organizers are planning
Safe Night USA with thousands of events
nationwide. Baker said.
“In Lincoln, we want to build the program
over time and prevent youth violence.”
SHAKELIA HOLMES, 7, jumps rope in the Air Park Recreation Center gymnasium. Children
played other games including pool, ping pong and basketball Saturday night.
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