Joseph Mann couldn’t stand to hear about another life lost due to violence in his community. It hurt him even more when his mentee and son’s friend was the 32nd homicide in Macon-Bibb County in 2020. Devaun Patton was more than just a number. He was a 16-year-old trying to learn how to navigate high school in a new town.
Patton’s tragic death was the last straw for Mann. He knew he needed to do something to make sure this didn’t happen to another child.
“I decided to create Project 32 in honor of Devaun,” said Mann. “I want this to make a difference in our community, and the way to do that is to reach our youth.”
Mann, a Macon native and football and wrestling coach at Ballard-Hudson High School, started Project 32 shortly after Patton’s death in 2020. It’s a 501(c)(3) organization aimed to provide an outlet for troubled youth. Mann’s goal is to reach young men through mentoring. Together, they take the boys fishing and participate in several different activities. One of those activities includes, ‘Get it off your chest,’, where the boys can interact with a licensed therapist in a group setting and talk about their problems and things going on in their lives.
“It’s not formal or anything. They can come how they are. We have food and drinks and really just provide a comfortable space for them to be themselves,” said Mann.
The organization has been able to reach more than 100 boys between 5 and 18 years old. They’re hoping to take on more members, but also looking for people to volunteer to be a mentor and participate. Mann is hoping the $25,000 in grant money Project 32 received from Macon Violence Prevention (MVP) will be able to make that possible.
Mann has joined forces with Earnest Butts, owner of E Butts Jr. Boxing Academy, to create the ‘Mitigating Violence Program’ with the grant money. The program is aimed to introduce boys to boxing, as well as other life skills through an 8-week course. Boys will learn how to box and workout, learn about discipline, and learn skills to make them feel good. At the end of the course, they’ll host a boxing exhibition to motivate the boys.
“What we’ve realized is that a lot of kids are upset because there isn’t a lot of physical activity in this generation,” said Mann. “What we’ve also learned is when kids are active for at least 35 to 45 minutes a day, they release endorphins that help them think better and control their temper.”
This course is free and open to all children. If you’re interested in signing your child up or are looking to volunteer, you can email Mann at email@example.com.