by Genea L. Webb
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Fred “Scrappy” Bulls hopes that today’s generation of youngsters make gang banging a thing of the past.
He and the other members of the North Side Old Timers plan on using the power of skating to make that happen.
“We have been having this free party each month for six years,” said Fred “Scrappy” Bulls, one of the founding members of the North Side Oldtimers, a non-profit outfit created in 2007. The group is concerned with growth and well-being of children and teens in Pittsburgh’s North Side communities. Its purpose is to try and positively impact the lives of kids in grades K-8.
“The kids know each other now. Individuals come to the rink and they’ve been skating together monthly for six years. They play together and skate together and establish a relationship,” Bulls said. “They know each other from being small kids—seven or eight years old—and now they are teenagers and they know each other and they look forward to seeing each other. They have names and faces and they have become buddies.”
This year’s party was being held at the Rump and Roll skating rink on Neville Island and Bulls is expecting between 200-300 kids in attendance. In addition to skating, the kids will be able to purchase food from the concession stand and Toys R Us gift certificates will be given out to the participants.
The majority of the organization’s financial and event support comes from donations from local business owners and local government officials like Joe Williams and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
“Luke Ravenstahl has been a God send. He has backed us for six years. He and his staff have never denied us anything. They have all been a blessing,” Bulls said.
In addition to the skating parties, the North Side Oldtimers also host a yearly Unity Gathering, which brings thousands of people from all across Allegheny County to West Park to mingle, listen to music and enjoy food. The group has also passed out Halloween treats to North Side children for the past three years. In 2009 the group took about 150 North Side children to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The organization, whose motto is “Save One, Job Done,” is planning on other activities for the kids and their parents.
“We want to have more participation with the parents,” Bulls said. “We’re trying to plan a trip to DC in the spring for the kids to visit the monument, the capital and the White House if we can do it. We want them to see that there is a lot more to this world than the North Side. We want them to see that one day they can be president. What I don’t want is them to be is gang bangers. Our job is to help the next generation. That’s what God put us here for.”