One of my first mentors was a gentleman who coached football, baseball, and any other sport he could sign up for at the local Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 9.13.43 PMelementary and high schools. Big Al was a great big, strong Italian man who had powerful catcher-mitt-sized hands–when he patted you on the back for a job well done, you’d land a few feet forward. We kids didn’t know it, but our coach worked the evening shift at the Congressional Post Office so he could spend daylight hours out on the ball field, teaching us the fundamentals of the game.

The guys I grew up with all respected Al for what he did for us, but also for the things we saw him do for others.  Along with his large frame, Al had a giant-sized heart and constantly looked after the downtrodden and the little guy.  Many times, a kid who didn’t have the means to buy a glove or a pair of cleats found a pair on his doorstep, out of nowhere. He never left a note, but we all knew they came from Al. He also made us call him when we got home safely after games. Those who forgot inevitably heard a knock at their door and knew the coach was standing there, just to make sure.

A flood of memories came rushing back to me this week as I read The Parking Professional’s March cover interview by editor Kim Fernandez featuring John Walsh, the advocate behind the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and host of television’s “America’s Most Wanted.” Most of us know Walsh’s horrific story–his son, Adam, was abducted 34 years ago from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Fla., and killed. It took 27 years before the Walsh family finally had closure and found out who the perpetrator was.

The part of the story you haven’t heard is that John Walsh thinks a trained parking professional may well have made a difference in the way Adam’s case turned out. He shared many great thoughts with us in his interview, but the overriding theme is that parking professionals can be a first line of defense against all sorts of crime in our communities, from burglaries to abductions to terrorism, and he has some concrete thoughts on how that can happen.

Reading this interview reminded me of Al because both men spent the better part of their careers helping their communities be better and safer places to live. Take a few moments to read the March issue and learn more about what Mr. Walsh has to say about the parking industry and the people who maintain and manage our garages and parking lots, and then share the interview with your staff members and talk about how you can put his ideas in place in your own operations. Everyone in the parking industry can play a role in making our neighbors–especially our children–safer in our facilities.