Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Lessons from mom stir teen to give

Barrington Lawrence, 17, was born and raised in Miami Gardens, and has been around charitable work for most of his life.

No surprise there — his mother, Velma Lawrence, is the founder of the Embrace Girls Foundation, a nonprofit group she started in 2001 that assists young girls throughout Miami-Dade County.

Lawrence says her upbringing in Liberty City fostered her social awareness. “It’s not all receive,” said Velma Lawrence, 55. “You have to be a giving person, and be a blessing to others.”

Barrington, a senior at Dade Christian School in Hialeah, has taken his mother’s lesson to heart. Over the summer, she asked him to do two things — get tutoring in the areas he needed help and come up with his own charitable project.

His solution was the BK Project: Bears for Kids in Distress, an initiative he began through his mother’s foundation to distribute teddy bears to children in need.

Barrington works with the Miami Gardens Police Department to give the bears to children who have been victims of abuse or have experienced other harrowing moments in their lives.

On Tuesday, Barrington and his mother met with the police chief to deliver 100 packages containing a teddy bear and Dum Dum lollipops.

Barrington didn’t carry the workload alone. He says that when he wasn’t on the football field practicing — that’s twice a day, Monday through Thursday — he and friends would throw around different ideas of ways to move the project forward. He plays cornerback and running back for the school’s football team.

He remembered a conversation he had with a few football buddies in December about children who were victims of abuse and crime.

“We even started asking teachers about DCF,” said Barrington, referring to the Florida Department of Children & Families. He said he was troubled by the thought of kids being removed from their homes.

The community, too, supported him with cash and spare change. Lawrence said that after a few months, “there were nine big jugs of change” that the two took to TD Bank to cash in. The Embrace Girls Foundation then matched his effort, and Barrington was able to invest a little over $550 in the project.

Lawrence says her son was a little shy about the project at first — football-playing teenagers and teddy bears don’t necessarily go hand in hand — but once Barrington saw the eagerness of the police to help with the project, he began to understand the impact of his small gesture.

Lawrence says she is proud of the man Barrington is becoming. “I get a little bit more at ease every time I see the way he handles a situation,” she said.

Barrington said he plans to go to college or join the military, but notes that he will continue to do philanthropic work. He is getting ready to order more bears to distribute.

“He’s always been around charitable work,” his mother said. “But I was surprised for a boy, or a young man, rather, to be thinking about helping children in distress.

“I was touched. I felt like, ‘Wow, he has it — and he has it in his own soul.’ ”