Following the Gopher football away win on Saturday, September 18, a University of Minnesota tailgate staple, the Golden Gopher “Fan Van,” was stolen from the parking lot of the True North Building in Dinkytown around 6pm. The van has since been recovered, but its disappearance has a deeper meaning and shows how truly no good deed goes unpunished.
The van is owned by the CEO of True North Equity Partners and Co-Founder of the charitable Slipka Foundation, Brian Slipka. A University of Minnesota alumnus himself and enthusiastic Minnesota Gopher booster, Slipka believes the van adds to school spirit, “We’ve had the Minnesota Golden Gopher ‘Fan Van’ for 13 years. It has brought fun and enjoyment to so many people over the years at so many tailgate parties that it is worth far more in sentimental value than it could ever be worth as a vehicle. The Fan Van has crank windows, it can barely go over 50 miles per hour, and it doesn’t even have AC—but we love it.”
Slipka believes that this incident illustrates campus’ safety issues and reflects the need to support the Minneapolis police and youth development programs. “It’s such an unfortunate situation when even something that’s practically patriotic like the fan van could become a target for criminals in Minneapolis,” Slipka says. “This incident really shows how much we need to support unity around overall law enforcement and neighborhood watch.”
Ironically, Slipka is the victim of this incident, but he is also someone who is placing a large effort into reducing similar crime.
The Slipka Foundation provides support for character-building initiatives for youth and young adults in Minneapolis through various programs such as the building of safe areas for youth to play sports like the Inner Park Project and “The Man Up Club.” Founded by Korey Dean, The Man Up Club aims to serve the overwhelming need for male role models in the lives of today’s youth.
Dean believes that his organization can provide needed mentorship and leadership in the lives of young, African-American males, “The core of The Man Up Club is simply for our young men to show up. Show up to school, to class, to work, for each other and to graduate. Every kid in our program is unique, gifted and worth investing in.”
At The Man Up Club, mentees learn about the importance and value of education, life skills, social skills and perspective that promotes self-respect and value, responsibility, community engagement, integrity, academic discipline, social responsibility, and anti-violence as well as, how to be a positive influence on their peers. The overall goal of the program is to develop boys into young men of character.
Surveillance video of the theft of the Fan Van reveals audio from one of the culprits, “nobody’s gonna expect some kids to steal the mf-ing school van bro, they’re gonna think it’s a mf-ing white [unintelligible].”
Slipka believes the theft of his van reflects how much more work is to be done: “It is discouraging when we have been trying, through the work of the Slipka Foundation, to invest in urban youth by supporting educational opportunities, character development, and community involvement. The theft of the Fan Van shows that we have so much more work to do and that all of us need to step up.”
This incident serves as a negative turned positive. Had these young men responsible for the theft of the van had the positive influence from an organization like the Man Up Club, this incident may have not happened. Generally, no harm was done, and more light has been shown on the importance of organizations like the Slipka Foundation and The Man Up Club. With crime on the rise, the city of Minneapolis strongly benefits from the support of these organizations and investment in our community and youth.
Slipka emphasized how this incident emphasizes the importance of supporting our community and investing in our youth. “This incident also shows how much MORE we need to do in our community to provide better opportunities for urban youth and show them that there is a different and better way of doing things.”
For those interested, more information about the Slipka Foundation is available at www.slipka.org, and The Man Up Club at www.themanupclub.org.