Jackie Wleh has been running laps lately. But he's not trying to get into shape. He's hitting the streets to get the public's attention — and hopefully to raise funds for his nonprofit group, which is taking kids to Washington D.C. this week.
"Most of these kids have never even seen City Hall, let alone the White House," Wleh said. "I want to make sure they're in an environment where their curiosity is increased. Where they can say wow, look at this — I can do this too."
"Anything that can transform their thinking — that's good enough."
ABC Men (which stands for Able Bodied Christian Men) also provides volunteer snow removal services for seniors during winter, and provides funds to poor families during the holidays through its Adopt-A-Family program. But the program is expanding to include educational programs for kids, Wleh said.
"It's going to be nice to get out of Philly and to see different things," said Halima Kallon, 14, one of the Southwest Philly middle-schoolers heading to the White House Wednesday.
"I hope to see somebody who can influence me," she said of the trip. "Why don't we get to talk to the president?"
Barack Obama may be a tad too busy to meet with the group of about 25 kids Wleh is bringing, but he said the important thing is to get them there to see the nation's capital for the first time. They'll be touring the White House and other national landmarks.
If they get their chance, some of these kids have a feisty desire to talk about the big issues with the president.
"I want to ask him, 'Why did he send our troops to Iraq?'" Kallon said.
Other students going on the trip said their goals ranged from career-based to community service.
"I want to go to the Supreme Court. I want to learn what qualifications you need to be a lawyer," said Samuel Cole, 14.
NaTray Harper, 14, said she hopes the trip will help ABC Men attract new sponsors to expand its charitable work.
"What we do is we help people," Harper said, mentioning their food and coat giveaways, and neighborhood clean-up projects. "We need to grow so we can help even more people."
Visit abcmen.org to learn more.