By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Twelve years ago, Van Brooks’ neck was broken in a Loyola High School football game, sidelining him to a wheelchair. Today, he’s the founder of the Safe Center, a place in West Baltimore where youth come to participate in productive activities, away from the dangerous streets.

Ask the parent of a teen when they worry about their child, and pretty soon, you’ll hear about that slice of the day between the end of school and when they get home.

Paralyzed on the football field as a teen, Brook’s strength is now paying off for hundreds of teens.

“I had a lot of support, and if I hadn’t had that support, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today,” said Brooks.

The Safe Center is at a corner-front in his West Baltimore neighborhood, a place with many needs.

Brooks calls it a safe-house because some are taken care of there.

“I’m giving these kids a safe place to come, and I’m also exposing them to opportunities they may not have,” said Brooks “The fire department comes in every Wednesday and helps the kids with their homework and projects and whatever activities they have that day.”

Homework comes first for at least an hour, and then play can begin — flag football with the firefighters, or travel to a horse farm, or a workout at a cross-fit gym.

They’re learning a life lesson — do what you have to do first, so you can do what you want to do next.

“It’s just a great partnership, and the kids are very excited when they come in because it’s something the kids look forward to,” said Brooks.

Teens, as you might know, can be a tough crowd. They might not be the first to praise an adult, but that’s not the case here.

“I like that they come and take time to help us learn what we don’t know,” said Tranay Williams, a seventh grade visitor of the center.

That is music to the ears of one man, giving back one day at a time.

“I really feel this is my purpose and this is my calling, and it’s just a blessing to wake up and do this every day,” said Brooks.

The program, Safe Alternative, is always looking for volunteers and support. For more information, CLICK HERE.


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