DJ Nurse On a Mission to Spread Love
By Dianne Anderson
Growing up as an at-risk teen, Rakeem Addison couldn’t see anything in his neighborhood to inform, inspire or open his young mind. There were no field trips for him, and like so many others in his parent’s income bracket, he got the leftovers of the bigger payers of society.
“It was unfortunate. We used to always have to wait till noon to go to the Boys & Girls Club. My parents couldn’t afford YMCA. We were segregated in a way as far as the youth of paying mom and dads. They got to see more different things,” he said.
It was then that Addison made it his mission to start his own effort when he grew up, where he could get kids outside of their limited environment, where they learned things from a young age, like sugar is a great snack.
“We don’t expose them to maybe we can try a nutrition bar, or something healthier. But, we have a liquor store on every third block in this city. We have meat [loaded with] antibiotics,” said Addison, who is a Licensed Vocational Nurse by trade.
Not being exposed to experiences nearly cost him everything. There was no mental or intellectual stimulation to be found. There was nothing to conceptualize outside of poverty and concrete.
“I noticed a lot of things happened to me from not being exposed, and I wasn’t motivated enough. I started a nonprofit to get the kids out and active, and it’s turned into something special,” said Addison, 33, founder of DJRARA Foundation with a vision to Spread Love.
When he’s not working as a nurse, his other passion as a DJ helps carry the costs for the nonprofit that he started seven years ago. Every week, he works gigs totally out of pocket, and has been popular enough to bring down the earnings to get some kids out of the inner city for a while.
Every Thursday, he offers a free field trip where the kids see new sights, be active and reach new heights. Usually, they bring about 100 participants, with about 25 coming from the shelter. Last week, he brought 50 out to jump at the fun place, Sky Zone. They had about 300 requests, but he had to cap it for affordability.
“We do about 50 in the general population, and then some special needs. We have individuals with autism and kids on the spectrum, but because I work in the field, it’s easy to handle them,” he said.
He serves about 400 kids a year, daily about 40 to 50 kids. Mostly, he takes the kids that other programs don’t want, those in the gray area, sitting on the sidelines, not engaged.
“They don’t want them at their programs. We take them in and expose them to museums, to the beaches, to workshops,” he said.
Where they go and what they do is based on what participants vote for. A few weeks ago, he had an assortment of reptiles for viewing, snakes, crocodiles and different crawly things.
“We provided education for the kids that wouldn’t be able to get to the field trip because a lot of kids said they couldn’t get transportation issues,” he said.
Transportation is usually a problem, or they just can’t afford to get out to activities to see something outside of streaming devices, at least a small portion of the real world,
Addison started as DJ for the foundation to fund the nonprofit. Occasionally, he hosts small fundraisers, but works as hard as the big players, reaching out to businesses, and he also provides a good amount of volunteerism. His Instagram is popular, and he works with several different programs to get kids and their families connected to resources.
“For food, we use Raising Cane because they are big on providing food. During COVID, we served about 10,000 kids. We made a drive-in team, and we delivered for kids in distance learning,” he said.
As he works together with several nonprofits, his teens and youth are ready and willing to roll up their sleeves for community service and beautification.
“We see alleys or different dumps that we try to clean up in the city. We try to partner up, but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth just to do an act of service. We don’t need money from it, but it’s just that’s what the community needs,” he said.
Through his effort, he promotes health awareness and hydration, being active, and perhaps the hardest of all, turning off the devices.
He said they are dedicated to fulfilling the needs of youth life and the homeless population, exposing kids to different therapies and allowing them to have real-life experiences to remember and grow by.
“A lot of time what happens in the summertime, we become couch potatoes and screen addicts, which means we’re not working out,” he said. “We’re trying to find a way for kids in different facets of life to come together and jump.”
For more information, see https://www.djrarafoundation.org/