On May 26, 2006, Susan Schmidt lost her brother, Water Street icon Scott "Scooter" Schmidt, to gun violence. The details remain unclear, but Scooter, then 42, was found shot to death in his Brewer's Hill home. His Siberian Husky, Cosmo, was also shot in the head, but miraculously, survived.
Scooter was a high-profile person who worked in many Water Street bars for more than 20 years as a handyman and bouncer. According to his sister, Scooter was the kind of guy who helped anyone in need.
"He did whatever needed to be done. He was a handyman and a fixture on Water Street. He had a very free spirit," says Schmidt.
Today, in honor of her brother, Schmidt runs a non-profit organization called The Scooter Foundation. This year, the group partnered with 30 anti-violence organizations for their annual Peace Walk.
The 2008 Peace Walk is on Sunday, June 8 at 1 p.m. in Washington Park. Attendees are invited to picnic together after the one-mile walk.
Other involved groups include the Task Force on Family Violence, the Urban Ecology Center, Esperanza Unida, the City of Milwaukee Mayor's Office, Summer of Peace, the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, YWCA and more.
"All of the groups are working together to address gun violence as a public health issue," says Schmidt.
The Scooter Foundation began on Memorial Day in 2005, when Schmidt organized a memorial in Scooter's honor. Hundreds of people attended.
"Everybody wanted to help in some way. Scooter had helped so many others," says Schmidt, who collected $5,000 in donations during the memorial.
For the next six months, Schmidt researched organizations to find the right one for her donation money. "I really couldn't find what I was looking for," she says.
Schmidt knew she wanted to find a small organization that worked hands-on with children. Scooter was a dedicated uncle to Schimdt's children, and he spent time with the kids in his neighborhood.
In December 2005, Schmidt attended a candlelight vigil with other Milwaukee residents who had lost a loved one to gun violence that year. It was there she heard local poet and activist Muhibb Dyer speak for the first time.
"He was so passionate about the problems in our city and how it's affecting our young people. I was really touched and inspired," says Schmidt.
After the vigil, Schmidt approach Dyer and told him about her quest to find the perfect organization for the donation money.
"He told me that when you can't find the right non-profit, you start your own," says Schmidt. "I thought to myself, 'I'm an aesthetician, what do I know about running a non-profit organization?'"
But for the love of Scooter -- as well as Schmidt's determination to do something to be a part of the solution to the city's gun violence issue -- Schmidt started the Scooter Foundation in March 2006.
"Every day you turn on the TV and hear about another shooting, but you never hear about the hope, the people who are really trying to do something," she says. "I want to be a person providing hope."
Schmidt crafted her group's mission based on Scooter's passions.
"I thought a lot about Scooter's priorities. His free time was all about spending time with kids and rollerblading," she says. "Muhibb suggested I start simply by taking kids from the central city to enjoy the outdoors."
The group's first Peace Walk took place on Memorial Day 2006, one year after Scooter was killed. The next month, Schmidt, along with other Scoter Foundation volunteers, took their first group of kids to the lakefront to ride the paddleboats. Since then, she has taken a group of 30-40 kids every month.
All of the children are students at Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School, the school closet to where Scooter lived and voted. To attend, the kids must maintain average or above average grades, attend school for the entire month and not demonstrate any violent behavior.
"They have to earn it," says Schmidt.
In the past two years, The Scooter Foundation took the kids to the lakefront to boat, rollerblade and fly kites. They also took a group to a buffalo farm, on a nature walk and hayride, an Iroquois River tour and more.
Schmidt tells each group about her brother and what happened.
"We drive by (Scooter's) house on our way to wherever we're going," she says. "I don't tell them Scooter died there, but I tell them 'this is where my brother lived.'"
Since Oliver Wendell Holmes partnered with The Scooter Foundation, the school witnessed a 26 percent decrease in violence, and 46 students who were failing maintained above-average grades.
"We met our five-year goal within the first 15 months," says Schmidt.
Schmidt says the success of her small organization is partly due to her ability to relate to the kids.
"Even though I'm a middle-aged lady, I lost a brother to the gun, and I know how gun violence affects a family," she says. "We have that in common."
Schmidt says the Scooter Foundation has helped with her healing process, and the healing of her parents.
"My parents were devastated and paralyzed when Scooter passed. This work gives them such inspiration. It gives them a real reason that he didn't just die for no reason," she says. "Even though he's not with us anymore, Scooter is making a difference in the community. His spirit lives on."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.