Todd Walker has been coaching football in Berkeley for eight years. He’s helped many kids develop confidence and a sense of belonging.
He also works in an Oakland mortuary. When he started seeing the kids he had coached turn up as victims, he said he knew he had to do more.
Walker and 25 others from the nonviolent youth group Lifelines to Healing have started walking the streets at night, connecting with kids.
“A lot of the kids I coach, I’ve had to pick up their bodies,” he said. “We just started this. We’re taking the streets back. We’re going to be talking to everybody, anybody, to stop some of this killing and get these kids back in school.”
Members of Lifelines to Healing will be on hand when Walker’s ninth season coaching youth football gets rolling Saturday at San Pablo Park.
Although the football camp has been available for kids ages 6 to 14 in years past, this year “we’re doing all ages,” Walker said.
He’s tough. Misbehavior leads to extra pushups. They get a strong dose of “stay out of trouble and stay in school.” But he also celebrates his charges’ birthdays.
“A lot of the kids, their parents work, they’re single parents,” he said. “If I see kids hanging around watching, I get them out onto the field, too.”
Kids need not pre-register to participate. Anyone who shows up in shorts and sneakers can play, regardless where they live. Walker advises them to bring their own water.
The group meets from 1 to 3:30 p.m. in San Pablo Park, 2800 Park Street between Russell and Ward streets in Southwest Berkeley. The season lasts until July 21.
For more information, Walker can be reached at 510-761-4515.