Chicago doctors work to connect with youth, prevent gun violence

Cate Cauguiran Image
Monday, April 24, 2023
Local doctors work to connect with youth, prevent violence
Project Outreach and Prevention will start its annual "Peace Unity and Love Tour" at Englewood STEM High School to help prevent gun violence.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Security surrounding downtown Chicago ramped up this weekend.

Also ramping up were more talks to better connect and engage with youth.

Emergency Room Dr. Michael McGee is the founder of nonprofit Project Outreach and Prevention.

"We're just trying to find an innovative way of doing these things," McGee said. "Our mission is, basically, to do what we can to alleviate violence in our youth by showing them positive career goals, as well as positive behaviors."

POP's tactic is to meet the youth where they are at and listen.

"Our youth are having a lot of concerns: They feel unloved, they feel like their voices aren't being heard. So, we try to show them some positivity and everything, that we actually can love them," McGee said.

POP, in partnership with multiple community partners will launch their annual "Peace Unity and Love Tour" as part of National Youth Violence Prevention Week.

The week-long tour in Chicago and Northwest Indiana comes after the so-called teen takeovers downtown, and a weekend where at least four children were shot. Among the victims were 6-year-old girl and the youngest, a 3-year-old boy, shot within two hours of one another.

Dr. Ken Wilson, a trauma surgeon at University of Chicago Medicine and a POP volunteer, said the number of children shot is increasing, and the ages of victims are getting younger.

"I think what goes unnoticed, mostly, is that those shootings that happened daily here in Chicago, by the end of a summer, matches all the children shot across the nation," Wilson said.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, 1,862 children under 18 years old have been killed or injured by gun violence across the U.S. so far this year.

"These are supposed to be the happiest stretches of your life. You're not supposed to spend this paralyzed or with a colostomy bags. We just think about a 4 year old, you go with a colostomy bag, it doesn't it doesn't make sense," Wilson said.

Wilson will be one of the featured speakers on POP's tour, which kicks off Monday at Englewood STEM High School.

"Giving these kids a safe community and a sense of belonging. That is probably the most important thing that I can do," Wilson said.

Doctors McGee and Wilson said the impact of violence on youth today makes the work POP does life-saving.

"We want to let people know that 'hey, join us to help save a life by mentoring kit for life,' and that's what we try to do," McGee said.