Aaron Davis was driving to school on a February morning when a car accident claimed his life.
Mr. Davis, 18, would have graduated from Glass City Academy on June 10 and was first in line to go to McDonald’s management school. He had been going down the wrong path, but his mentor, Shawn Mahone, Sr., said Mr. Davis had turned his life around.
“He was one of the hardest cases I ever had. Him and his siblings,” said Mr. Mahone, the executive director of Young Men and Women for Change. “He was resistant, he was angry, and he was emotional, but in one year, he became this well-groomed, well-respectable, very outgoing young man.”
Mr. Mahone said he wanted to see Mr. Davis become a positive role model in the community and show people that you can get your life back on track.
Beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday, Mr. Mahone will walk along Telegraph Road, from the border of Ohio and Michigan to Detroit, on behalf of Mr. Davis and other youths who have lost their lives to tragic and unfortunate circumstances. Holding a picture of the young man and carrying items in a backpack, Mr. Mahone said he will walk 50 miles until he reaches downtown Detroit or walk until his nonprofit raises $15,000.
“I want to be able to walk on behalf of every youth across the country to bring out awareness and help them understand that if they don’t change their thinking, three things can happen: the prison yard, the graveyard, and homelessness,” Mr. Mahone said.
Mr. Mahone will walk simultaneously with the Walk and Run for Youth Day. Kicking off at 9 a.m. with a 5K walk and run near 5425 Southwyck Blvd., the youth day continues with carnival activities at Aaron’s House, the organization’s facility that is named after Mr. Davis. Mr. Mahone hopes the day, first held in 2010, will become an annual event.
Young Men and Women for Change was founded by Mr. Mahone in 2006 and uses a “tough love” approach to help youths ages 5 to 17. Mr. Mahone said the intensely structured behavior-modification program uses a “dose of reality” to break down the negatives in a youth’s life and build them back up with positive reinforcement.
Mr. Davis’ mother, Terri Brown, said she had been “at her wits end” before enrolling her three children in the program. The road was bumpy, she said, but the outcome was a 180-degree turnaround for Mr. Davis and her 16-year-old twins.
As a volunteer assistant director of Young Men and Women for Change and a nurse holding down two jobs, Ms. Brown said she has kept busy with the organization to turn a tragedy into something positive.
“There is nothing we wouldn’t do to help a child who needed us,” she said. “Unfortunately, Aaron was that child. But he turned everything around and was on a road to positive things. He was their number one pick for McDonald’s, but he isn’t going to be able to fulfill those dreams.”
As the only behavior-modification program within a 250-mile radius, Mr. Mahone said he plans to open a second facility in Michigan. Young Men and Women for Change is his purpose and his passion, and he hopes it will become a global organization.
For Ms. Brown and her twins, Lana and Lance, Saturday’s walk demonstrates the organization’s commitment to saving youths. She said, “It's not about us. It’s about the kids. These children are like our extended family. There is no limit.”
Walk-ins are welcome at the 5K walk and run. The entry fee is $10 per child, $25 per adult, and $100 per organization or group. A free carnival with entertainment, music, drawings, concessions, and a bake sale will continue at Aaron’s House, 5425 Southwyck Blvd., until 4 p.m.
Contact Danielle Trubow at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6129, or on Twitter @danielletrubow.