About the Founder
As is the case with many non-profits the founder, Mark Mintzer, was driven by his own personal and professional experiences and the need to teach his own children the importance of giving back.
Growing up, Mintzer did not appear to be a “kid-at-risk.” He was academically solid, a varsity athlete in multiple sports and president of both his junior and senior classes. However, behind the scenes his home life was a different story. His father was a practicing alcoholic (they had lost their home and car), one of his sisters had been killed in a hit-and-run car accident and his brother was a drug addict who was in and out of jail. Mintzer attributes his navigation and successes through those difficult years to a number of sources, but in particular the coaches and teachers ("mentors") who had been supportive and directive at critical times and crossroads. Their influence became the fuel for a lifelong journey to make a difference in other people's lives.
As a professional in the fitness industry, Mintzer had seen the unique qualities that fitness offers as a teaching medium because of its ability to affect both the physical and psychological aspects of an individual. He watched as adults reached for fitness goals they never thought possible and upon achieving them gained tremendous self-confidence influencing all aspects of their lives—personal and professional.
By good fortune Mintzer was introduced to Bruce Heim, a West Point graduate and successful businessman from State College, PA, who had a passion for helping kids. An advocate for youth and fitness, Heim was utilizing intense physical fitness to mentor kids, helping young people achieve their full potential as individuals and community members.
Nurtured by their friendship and common passions, a collaborative partnership was born. As part of a four year research grant through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, that included the Upper Main Line YMCA, the Youth Mentoring Partnership was introduced to the Philadelphia region. The program proved to be a great success and the research results inspiring. With numerous requests to expand the Friend Fitness Program and add additional programs the creation of the Youth Mentoring Partnership was inevitable.