ZANESVILLE − In 2018, Bryan Wolfe launched Project Blueprint 740, a program aimed at helping troubled children in Zanesville escape a life of violence, drugs and negative influences. Motivated with a desire to build positive relationships with the kids, Wolfe and other members of his team provide them with guidance, mentorship, and tools they will need to grow into respectful young adults.
“When they’re from a tumultuous household a lot of times they not only deal with a lot of stress, but they observe it as well from inside their family,” Wolfe said. “We try to teach them ways to navigate this without the influence of emotional reaction, so that they can stay more logical in their decision making to prevent them from making those bad decisions.”
The project specifically targets children who live in areas with higher rates of violence and drug-related issues who don’t have positive role models. Many of these kids face challenges at home, in their community and at school making it difficult to grow up in stable conditions.
How Project Blueprint started
Project Blueprint began as just a simple idea to work with kids.
As a Zanesville police officer, Wolfe would respond to calls in less affluent areas of the city. There were multiple unruly calls for one specific boy, as he was often left to his own devices. When the boy tested positive for meth at the age 13, Wolfe decided there was never going to be a better time to make his idea a reality. He pitched his idea to the chief.
“I had said ‘Hey I don’t really know what I’m going to do yet, but can I use some department resources to pick up some of these youth or spend some time with them, we’re going to exercise.’ And that was really the only thing that I had planned,” Wolfe said.
He and some of his friends then started to go around in their cruisers and pick up the kids to work out in the police training center. The Straker Foundation was a huge help in transportation, funding a bus that they use now.
Program takes a comprehensive approach
The program now has around 30 to 40 participants at a time. It takes a comprehensive approach by focusing on learning life skills in a classroom setting and physical wellness. One of the key components is exercising as a group, as Wolfe has seen the power in bonds and connections made through physical fitness. Having been involved with jujitsu, Wolfe met Adam Rouan, who volunteers to help the kids.
The kids play games such as the sock game, where the last kid wearing his socks is the winner. Their competitiveness truly shines through during these games. Fitness training such as box jumps are used to help the kids conquer fear together and it allows them to see they can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
“We want them to realize that they can do hard things,” Rouan said.
In addition to physical fitness, Project Blueprint supports the kids in outside interests, whether they want to participate in organized sports or exploring hobbies. Having these interests allow them to work as a team and keeps them out of trouble, Wolfe added.
In addition to the classroom and gym they like to cover basic needs too. Snack and hygiene products are supplied, and they often partner with Princes Barber Academy, which provides them with haircuts. Funding for the program ultimately comes from community donations, fundraising efforts, the juvenile court and the Straker Foundation who has offered a significant amount of support aside from the bus. Any donations can be made by reaching out on their Facebook page, added Wolfe.
However, the program does not come without obstacles. There are many cases where kids simply do not want to be there, begin avoiding coming in or simply finish their time ordered by the court and fall into the same patterns. These are the worst-case scenarios.
“Those relationships they build on the street are so important to them that they will refuse to buy into what we have built for fear of losing those other connections that they have,” Wolfe said.
Participants who’ve been successful in the program often come back and offer themselves as mentors, leading kids by example. Isaiah Chason was one of the original kids to join the program. Now he’s a mentor.
“I used to be bad and when I got to (Project Blueprint), they taught me stuff. I needed that in my life,” Chason said. “It helps kids that don’t have father figures and they need someone to guide them in life like me. I got guided,” Chason said.
School was difficult as Chason would often find himself in trouble or suspended. He now looks back and see how his behavior and thinking skills have improved since joining.
While the average age of the boys is quite young, they can participate in the program as long as they need.
“Once we build that relationship as far as we’re concerned at the program, you’re a part of our family and we will be there for you forever, I don’t care how old you are,” Wolfe said.
Fundraising has begun for Christmas toy drive
Project Blueprint gives to whole communities as well with the annual Christmas toy drive. This month they are hosting Axe Turney and Kick-N-Axe on Nov. 28 to help finance the toy drive. On Christmas morning the team will loads up their cruisers and bus to make like Santa Clause through neighborhoods, delivering toys to boys and girls who may not get a Christmas.
“It’s changed the entire way I look at the holiday,” Wolfe said. “And it is the greatest thing we’ve ever done, it’s so much fun.”