YMCA responds to a rash of kid violence

MILWAUKEE: The YMCA of Greater Milwaukee is leading an effort to bring together several community groups for a public service campaign aimed at local inner-city youth.

MILWAUKEE: The YMCA of Greater Milwaukee is leading an effort to bring together several community groups for a public service campaign aimed at local inner-city youth.

This summer, Milwaukee has been the site of a teen riot at a local shopping mall and the beating to death of a 36-year-old man by a mob of 17 teens and children as young as 10. The incidents have raised local concerns.

"We have ramped up communication efforts when it comes to teens," said Joe Cockrell, director of PR at the YMCA of Greater Milwaukee.

The local Boys and Girls Clubs already have agreed to work with the YMCA of Greater Milwaukee on a new community outreach effort. Cockrell is trying to recruit other groups - such as the Boy Scouts and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program - to join in the effort, which Cockrell has dubbed "All Kids Are Our Kids."

"We're trying to get as many players around the table as possible," Cockrell said. "Our message is that there is something positive for kids to do.

We want to remind them we have activities available without them having to pay for them."

Northwestern Mutual Life, a major Milwaukee employer, has agreed to help Cockrell's new coalition produce a PSA talking to local youth. Cockrell also has a verbal commitment from a major area movie-theater chain to show the PSA before films on its screens.

"We hope to do this as soon as possible," Cockrell said. "We are looking for sources of funding and underwriters." Costs to produce the PSA for both TV and movie-theater play will likely be at least $150,000, he estimated.

Cockrell hopes to get a Milwaukee Bucks basketball player as a spokesperson on the PSA.

The YMCA has a new facility on Milwaukee's North Side, the low-income neighborhood where the man was beaten by the mob. The organization is planning extensive community outreach there, Cockrell said.

It's also operating a school in the neighborhood for 450 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, working with local businesses to provide positive role models for students.

Referring to the September 29 fatal beating, Cockrell said, "What happened is shocking and horrible, but we've known there are problems in Milwaukee.

This is just a wake-up call for all of us."

In addition to recent teen unrest, Milwaukee has also seen more than its normal share of political scandals this year with accusations of aldermanic bribe taking.

"There's a real vacuum of leadership right now," Cockrell said. "There's a lot of lost faith in politicians in this town. The media has been calling us and asking, 'What are you doing for kids?'"

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