JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Operation Save Our Sons held a rally Saturday, calling on fathers to help other fathers. It's the group's second event to help save black youth.
The local group held a similar one in Jacksonville in May focused on young men.
A call to action to fathers from fathers: That's what drew some men to Ribault High, men like Kenneth Simmons, looking to strengthen his relationships with his children.
"My dad really wasn't in my life so I want to be in my kids' lives more, and to help my kids better their lives so they not have to come up the way I did," said Simmons.
Called "Fathers Calling Fathers," the event provided mentorship to dads though group sessions.
Some dads came with their sons, like Duval County Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, who shared his story of separating and reconnecting with his own father.
"I can tell you that I became a different person when I was able to reconnect with my father," said Vitti, "and we have so many young men out there who are in need of a mentor need of someone to just talk to."
Organizers said 70 percent of men who are incarcerated grew up without their fathers.
Even though the focus was on fathers, this conference also reached out to young men, many of whom are growing up without their fathers.
Channel 4's Ken Jefferson led a discussion for young men ages 10 to 18 about managing conflict, solving problems and interacting with police.
"Our young males sometime have trouble understanding that you can manage conflict, you can prevent things from escalating, you can have a resolution without it being a final resolution," said Jefferson.
Organizers hope fathers will leave here with the tools needed to permanently change their children's lives for the better.
"A lot of times in a one-day event you can't really fix all the problems, sometimes just the inspiration, the sense of I want to do better," said Dr. John Guns, Operation Save Our Sons founder.
A first step in an effort to rebuild families, and in turn the community.
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