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MAKING A MARK: Am I My Brother's Keeper?

A Chesapeake man is turning sorrow into solutions. James Risper overcame devastation and adversity to touch the lives of young people in his community.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — It’s a story of hope born out of tragedy.

Reverend James Risper's son Bootsie was shot and killed in 2006. He was 29 years old.

"My emotions just went out the window, I didn't know what to do," said Risper. "It drew me to drugs and everything else, and it got me ten times worse than I was."

But Risper later channeled his grief into changing his life, turning away from drugs and crime to honor his late son. "I knew what kind of dad he wanted, and I decided that I wanted to become that guy," said Risper.

Then in 2016, Risper launched the nonprofit ‘Am I My Brother’s Keeper?’ to mentor and support at-risk youth. 

"I'm going in neighborhoods, and every time I hear somebody [got] shot, a young man [got] shot, I'm on it," said Risper. "So, what we're trying to do now is get them off the street, make them want to... help themselves."

Risper says he hopes to use the pain of his past to reshape a young person's future. "When you love people and you love life and you want to see people get better because you can remember where you were, this is what changes things," said Risper. "This is what is needed, for the people to see that somebody [is] out here loving them."

‘Am I My Brother’s Keeper?’ held an event called 'The Sole Purpose' on Saturday, January 28 at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 310 N Birdneck Rd in Virginia Beach. The group gave away new shoes, backpacks, and other items to people who are homeless. 

For more information or to make a donation to the nonprofit, email Reverend James Risper at j717bug@gmail.com or call 757-581-0425.