ANDERSON – Though he comes from an esteemed local family that include his grandfather’s brother, James Warner, founder of the annual Thanksgiving dinner, Bradley Warner got himself into a little legal trouble as a teenager when he got caught stealing from his employer.
The Anderson native was lucky that between the Madison County Juvenile Court and his family, there were resources to send him to George Jr. Republic High School, a school for at-risk youth in Grove City, Pennsylvania, for his senior year.
Since then, Warner has tried to do his family proud and is following their example as he tries to become a pillar of the community. That’s one of the reasons he established the not-for-profit Second Chance Kids Foundation about three years ago.
“Every kid deserves a chance,” he said. “Let’s get together and bring this city back to where it needs to be. Let’s build a hedge of protection.”
Warner, 37, hopes the boys with whom he works at the Geater Community Center won’t need a second chance because of his interventions and that of his colleagues, Kyle Morgan and Daniel Baxter. The young men come to the center from 3:30 to about 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to play basketball, lift weights and go on fun field trips that include bowling and Pacers games.
“I felt the need for the boys. I truly felt a lot of their parents wasn’t paying them any attention,” he said. “I knew that it was time to do something. My story was just strong. I knew they would want to hear more about my story.”
Many of the boys take part in sports during the school year at Anderson High School, so much of their participation in the Second Chance program happens during their time off from school. Warner said he hopes to attract more boys who aren’t able to participate in high school sports to join his program during the school year.
Through the multiracial, ecumenical program, Warner said, he hopes to reduce crime and racism, build character and prepare young people for the future.
The teens are susceptible to crime because of poverty and a lack of constructive activity, Warner said. He hopes to resolve those problems through the foundation and through his businesses, which he hopes will be able to employ some of the youth.
“Certain things that mean you no good, you’re bound to run into it in Anderson,” he said.
Warner said he also wants to use Second Chance as an opportunity for racial reconciliation to prevent the kind of devastating race-related massacres that have taken place in places like El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“I saw so much division. I just really did it to attack racism,” he said. “If you have the spirit of the Lord in you, you know it’s not about color.”
Many of the boys in the program don’t have fathers in the picture to guide them, Warner said. That’s why he uses the program to give youths what he tries to give his own 5-year-old son, Bradyn.
“I’m going to let them know the difference between right and wrong. We revolve this program around Christian values,” he said. “For those that have a father, I want to be a bigger brother figure.”
Warner said he also is committed to working with the teens’ teachers and coaches as a way of keeping them academically on track.
“I try what I can to put them in collegiate positions, in professional positions,” he said.
Anderson High School freshman Latrell White has participated in the Second Chance program for about nine months because he saw how it motivated young people.
“I wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “It gave me more confidence.”
AHS sophomore Tyrelle Wills is a member of the school’s basketball team and said his participation in Second Chance has helped him stay in shape in the offseason. He has been in the program since the eighth grade.
“I needed to get stronger for high school, it was free, and I thought it would be good for me,” he said.
Morgan said it was the second-chance theme of the program that sparked his desire to help.
“I see them giving their time, so I just want to be a part of what they’re doing,” he said. “Our kids don’t all come from a perfect background. I want to work with the guys who are doing it from the heart and not just for money.”
Baxter said he was interested in helping out with the Second Chance program because he grew up coming to the Geater Center, and it helped shape the man he became.
“This place, this is where we grew up at. This is where we spent our summers. This is where we spent our winters playing basketball,” the father of three said.
How to enroll
The Second Chance Kids Foundation, a free program for boys ages 5-20, is offered from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Geater Community Center, 1611 Chase St., Anderson. Enrollment is rolling year-round.
For more information or to enroll a child, call Bradley Warner at 317-654-8531.