A crowd of almost 50 supporters came out to honor the MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder) as they celebrated their 15-year anniversary with an honorary awards banquet in Salvatore's Italian Gardens Restaurant in Lancaster.
More than 20 awards were handed out to individuals and businesses in the community who have worked diligently with the organization to take a stand against drugs and violence in the community and instill confidence and courage in the youths who are at the most risk.
"[MAD DADS] is a great opportunity for men who really want to make a change in the community and be the driving force behind that change," said Dwayne Ferguson, president of the organization. "We have reached over 50,000 kids because we believe in each other and what we can do together as a community."
Associate Buffalo City Judge Robert T. Russell was the keynote speaker for the event and gave a passionate speech praising the work of the organization and its members for working hard to remain a positive force in the community.
"I deal in several courts that deal with youths and young adults," said Russell. "So it's nice to have someone on the front lines so they don't have to come through the justice system."
MAD DADS is a volunteer organization that began in Omaha, Neb., in 1989 and has since spread to encompass more than 60 chapters in 16 states. One of its main goals is to encourage men to take an active role in their families' lives in an effort to save communities from the social ills that many are inflicted with.
MAD DADS Street Patrol is the organization's signature program that puts volunteers wearing bright green shirts and black hats out into some of the toughest neighborhoods to act as positive role models and help turn young lives around.
Leonard Lane, president of the FATHERS (Fathers Armed Together to Help, Educate, Restore and Save) organization said that after working for the Buffalo Fire Department for 25 years, he has seen the problems in the streets first-hand and wanted to be more aggressive in saving the youth by offering them options.
"When you come to events like this you see a lot of young men prospering and being productive as men," he said. "Sometimes they are able to reach back and help other young men who have fallen victim to the streets."
The Buffalo Chapter has organized a summer basketball league held Monday and Wednesday at Woodlawn Park. MAD DADS cook hot dogs and provide refreshments after the games and use the platform not only to keep kids out of trouble, but also to build positive relationships between fathers and sons.
"God has kept me in the right frame of mind and has allowed me to be a vessel to do his work," said Ferguson. "This just could not happen without Him. Amen."