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Scooter Foundation Helps Kids, Keeps Memories Alive

by Tim Lambrecht

Scott “Scooter” Schmidt enjoyed life to the fullest. Regular patrons of Water Street bars and businesses knew Scooter from his time spent working at Rosie’s. He also worked security for Summerfest.

I met Scooter when I worked for the Shepherd Express when their offices were on Water Street. He always had a smile on his face and was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. He and his dog Cosmo were a fixture on Water Street, and became “ambassadors of good will” for the entire area. On May 26, 2005, Scooter was shot and killed during a burglary attempt at his home on North Avenue. Many people from all walks of life and all positions in the community feel the loss of their friend. Water Street is not the same without him.

After Scooter’s death, his family wanted to turn their sadness into energy for something positive. Scooter’s sister, Susan Schmidt created the Scooter Foundation and worked with the Campaign Against Violence group, organizing the “Making Memories Matter – The First Annual Skate & Walk To End Violence In Our City” to coincide with the first anniversary of Scooter’s passing. The walk began at the Marsupial Bridge just off Brady Street and wound down Water Street and ended at Pere Marquette Park.

Friends, family and others who had lost family members to violence joined the walk to remember their loved ones. They released balloons and listened to community leaders speak about the effects of violence. With the help of the Water Street Tavern Association, and by selling raffle tickets, t-shirts, food and drinks and collecting donations, the walk raised $5,000.

After the event, Susan got in touch with Muhibb Dyer, a local poet, spoken word performer and activist who had helped on the walk, with the intention of donating the $5000 to a local charity. He instead proposed that she use the money herself to continue the work she had started. Initially, Susan was overwhelmed, never having done such work before, but with the help of friends and family, the foundation began to look for ways to help the community and honor Scooter’s memory at the same time.

Susan wanted the foundation and its events to reflect the kind of person Scooter was. He enjoyed the outdoors. In the summer, you would find him with his dog Cosmo by his side on his rollerblades or bike. In the winter, they’d go sledding. Scooter also loved kids.

Located not far from his home on North Avenue is Oliver Wendell Holmes elementary school. Susan made some calls and used her connections to ask the faculty if they would be interested in working with the foundation. It was decided that students who had good or improving grades or were regular volunteers in school activities would be invited to participate in events sponsored by the Foundation.

The first event they participated in was a day at the lakefront. They went for paddleboat rides, flew kites and played frisbee. Although they lived just a few miles away, some of the kids had never been to the lakefront before.

In addition to a fun day at the lake, there was a break to sit down and listen to local leaders like Judge Derek Mosely talk about building interpersonal skills and self-confidence, and inspiring positive changes in their neighborhoods.

Now, every month, the foundation takes 20-30 students on a field trip or out for a recreational activity. The group has gone to the zoo, Apple Holler and out to Buffalo Bill’s Farm. They took a boat ride on the Milwaukee River. They had an afternoon of bowling and pizza at The Falcon Bowl. They toured the Milwaukee Public Library and made sure everyone got a library card.

The foundation also had a cold weather clothing drive and collected 35 boxes of clothes. They have also participated in neighborhood cleanups. Susan says, “By targeting children, we hope to empower future generations and inspire them to better their lives and positively impact our community.”

When the foundation gets a group of students together for an outing, Susan says it takes a while for the kids to feel comfortable. “It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. When you see a child, quiet at first, start to have fun, it’s literally like watching a flower bloom. It’s just a beautiful thing.”

The Scooter Foundation is always looking for volunteers and ideas for future outings. If you’d like more information, please visit www.scooterfoundation. org.

Another way you can contribute is to visit the new Scooter’s Pub on Water and Juneau. A portion of money earned each Wednesday goes to the foundation. Nothing, of course, can bring back our friend Scooter, but the good work of his family and the volunteers invokes his memory and positive attitude and remind us that something good can come from something so tragic.

The second annual Skate and Walk To End Violence will be held Sunday, June 10. For more information, go to www. scooterfoundation.org.

Riverwest Currents online edition – May, 2007