A Valentine's Day gift, from young men to those in need

10:36 PM, Feb 14, 2012   |    comments
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On Valentine's Day, lovers and spouses across the world give each other gifts. But we're about to tell you about a group of young men who gave their gifts to kids in need.

This story is also about their mentor, who in turn got to see the product of his gift.

"We've got a lot of poverty, single-income parents, low-income neighborhoods," Horace Dukes says of the kids in his Dukes Foundation program, "but what we say is, 'It's not where you are; it's where you're going to.'"

A teacher in the Atlanta school system, Horace Dukes started the Dukes Foundation in 2003 as a mentorship program for at-risk youth. Now nine years in, he has 60 kids under his wing and focused on the future.

"He takes us, he molds us into young and successful young men," says current student Marcus Johnson.

Adds fellow student Javier Gober, currently in 9th grade, "It's like a fraternity in a way, like a brotherhood, like a small bond between each other."

Part of the program is giving the young men exposure to culture and opportunities; this was represented by the tour of South Carolina colleges they took this past weekend.

Another part is giving to others, which is why the kids spent three months this past fall raising money for cancer research. They took a small part of that money and put it towards a Valentine's Day surprise.

A small group of Dukes Foundation students visited three Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals and, at each one, dropped off 100 stuffed animals.

"We are doing something and want to give back," Johnson said, "and it's just wonderful."

For more on the Dukes Foundation, visit http://www.dukesfoundation.org.

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