Last month upon direct invitation, New York City’s Boyd “Rainmaker” Melson served as a mentor at Steve Harvey’s Youth Mentorship Camp. The camp was held on a ranch two and a half hours outside of Atlanta, GA.
The camp primarily assists troubled African American boys between 11-18 from fatherless households by providing guidance and educational mentoring. The mentorship camp involved 200 boys, with all but one being of African American descent. The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation leaned on the United States Army to provide roughly 15 soldiers to serve as the mentors with a group of 20 boys assigned to 2 soldiers.
Melson, a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, received a phone call from the U.S. Army Reserve Public Affairs Office requesting him to fly down from New York to serve as both a mentor and special celebrity invite for the youth camp. Captain Melson was paired with Sergeant Cole as they both were assigned 20 boys. During his five days in Atlanta, the WBC-USNBC junior middleweight champion and West Point graduate put all of his energy into providing an unforgettable developmental experience for all the children he came in contact with.
“Each day, the boys were mentored from 5AM until 1AM of the next day,” said Melson. “We were on them. We treated them like Privates in Basic Training and they had hate in their eyes towards us. It was 95 degrees every day and humid. Whenever they were listening to a speaker and they started falling asleep, we helped them stay awake by pulling them to the side and dropping them for push-ups. We also would have them do wall sits. Our mission was to break them in those five days so that we could strip them of their ego, anger and pride so we could help rebuild them.”
“They hated us, but we noticed a change as the week progressed. I kept reminding myself no matter how angry or frustrated I became with them they’re just children and never had a man’s guidance in their life so it was not their faults. Every time that I dropped them for push-ups or had them sit on the wall it was to mentor them while they were being disciplined so that they could understand the process and life. I constantly heard them saying that they were tired and wanted to sleep. I would say, so the hell what. You are tired, that is not a way out. Chasing your dreams will get you tired each time. That does not mean you stop. The world does not care if you are tired, and you need to understand this. I never relied more heavily on my vast life experiences to find a way to reach these boys more than I did at this camp.”
By weeks end, the boys learned how to march according to military standards along with Army standards of Drill and Ceremony. For the first time for many of the boys, they were taught the basic disciplines of life and starting answering to Captain Melson with Yes Sir and No Sir. The boys went through Army physical training each morning beginning at 5:30AM. There were breakout sessions referred to as vignettes where Melson and Cole presented certain scenarios to intrigue thought within the boys so they could share what decisions they may have made in any specific scenario. Boyd, along with Cole, chose those times to deliver heavy rhetoric from their life experiences in order to help open up the minds of these future young men.
Following the training, there were guest speakers that overcame similar difficulties during their childhood including Power 105.1 personality Charlamagne Tha God and actor Hill Harper. Steve Harvey also spoke each evening for about two hours on the hard truths of life and how the boys need to present themselves in the future to advance professionally.
“Steve was extremely raw in his delivery to these boys. He held nothing back. I was in awe watching a man worth 100 million dollars giving his time back by speaking the dead honest truths for these boys to soak up. Steve was at the camp the entire time. Each night, his camp discussion went from 10PM until midnight. His energy was relentless, Melson said.”
The most touching moment for Melson was on the final evening when Harvey had each camper write a letter to their absent fathers. All of the boys wrote negative things since they never knew their fathers, were abandoned by them, or had limited contact with a father that wanted nothing to do with them. Steve invited the boys to come on stage and read their letters.
“Every letter sounded similar,” Melson said. “Dear dad, I hate you why did you leave me. Dear dad, you’re a coward, you left us, I hope you die. I watched the first two boys walk off the stage with a look of anger and despair that you typically see in a man’s eyes, but not meant for a boy. By the time the second boy walked off stage, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the end of the stage, mind you most of these boys were not from my group, and I waited for them to walk off stage. When they were close enough to me, still with that look of a man’s anger and despair on their faces, I opened my arms, and each boy fell into them breaking down crying. I broke down instantly crying very hard with them. Some cried asking me why did their father leave them, and others cried saying they wished I was their daddy.”
“I squeezed them so very tight and told each one of them how much I loved them while sobbing, and I kept repeating to them that they are not alone. I cried more that night than I have cried throughout my entirety as an adult. I gave each of these boys my cell phone number. I said to each boy that for the rest of your lives, call me when you need me or just want to talk. Do not ever forget that I am a phone call or text away. Steve Harvey told them that night to forgive their fathers and it was going to be the hardest thing they’ve ever done. He said don’t forgive your father for them, but for you. If you walk around with that poison in your hearts, it will kill you. It will make you hate your wife’s father one day. You have to forgive to be free.”
Even when the Camp ended, one of Boyd’s goals became to continue making a positive influence on these boys after learning of their struggles during his five unforgettable days in Atlanta.
“It literally made me break down and cry when these boys shared their hatred for the men absent from their lives. People that have two parents in their lives don’t understand how important that is and since it’s a given, it’s not something we think about. Steve Harvey said for a young boy, a mother’s love is different than a father’s love. A mother’s love is unconditional. Her job is to nurture a young boy. When he trips and scrapes his knees, the mother comes instantly to comfort him. A father’s love for a young boy comes with conditions. When he trips and scrapes his knees, the father tells him to get back up and keep moving because you will be fine. Steve closed it by saying for a young boy, a mother’s job is to nurture and comfort you. A father’s job is to raise a young boy.”
“Since these children all had empty voids from a missing parent, they were lacking in some areas. During my time in the Camp, I dedicated my every second to making a permanent impact in these boys’ lives. I believe they all have the potential to do something great with their lives and whatever I can do to continue helping them I will. There is no race when it comes to children because they are just children.”
Melson shared that he now has 6 adopted sons he texts and calls a few times per week. He received a phone call from the mother of one of his boys in his group asking him to please call once a week to speak with him and keep him on track. When Father’s Day came, Melson received the following texts from one of the boys in his group.
“Thank you and I love you. If I could say one phrase to you for the rest of my life it would be that. You have inspired me in ways you can’t even imagine and I don’t give you nearly enough praise for that. I also don’t tell you how much I love you for all of the things you’ve done for me in the 6 days I am a great son because of you. I don’t know if I’d be able to say that had you not been in my life the way you have. Everyone needs a father figure while they are growing up. Thanks for being a genuine, loving, and caring person Captain Melson. Happy Father’s day!
I don’t know where to begin thanking you for all that you have done for me. You brought me into the world, watched out for me, taught me, laughed with me, and spent a lot of time with me. Thanks for being the best mentor I could ask for. To a mentor who loved me enough to teach me some tough lessons so my life would be easier, later on. Happy Father’s Day! Captain I can’t imagine what my life would be like without your presence. You have provided me stability in my life that I can’t put a price on.”
The boy who sent the text won a 100 dollar gift certificate at the Camp resulting from a competition at the Camp. He called Boyd that same day and said that he donated $50 of it to Team Fight to Walk.