Park Bank is connected to the community. Throughout its history, Park Bank — named for its origins on Park Street, on Madison’s south side — has shown a willingness to both care about and fight for the communities their customers come from. Park Bank insists that employees choose one or two ways every year to give back to the places they come from.
On Thursday, Park Bank made a $5,000 donation to the Southside Raiders to buy new uniforms, personalized with last names on the back for each player. The donation to the Raiders is more than a mere gesture towards the community cause of the moment.
The Raiders are far more than that.
Jeff Mack, who joined Park Bank Vice President of Private Banking earlier this summer, says the same thing generation after generation of former Southside Raiders say: The Raiders made him who he is today. Mack, a Wisconsin Badger standout linebacker from 2000-2004, oversaw the process that led to the Raiders receiving this donation. He said that they were the first entity on his mind when he joined Park Bank and his new colleagues spoke to him about giving back to the community where he’d come from.
“When I decided to further my career in banking I wanted to come back home to Madison,” Mack told Madison365. “I wanted to have more of a community banking feel and Park Bank was the first one on my mind. I also just wanted to make sure we were engaging the community which led to me asking them to be involved with the Southside Raiders and they were willing to.”
The Raiders have been a staple on the south side of Madison since the 1970s and are responsible for much of the good that has taken place in that community.
“I grew up in Madison playing for the Raiders from third grade to eighth grade,” Mack said. “I’m a Madison kid. I played for the Raiders and the (Madison West) Regents. For me it was everything. My Dad was a coach. My Mom was a cheerleader coach, my sisters were cheerleaders. It was a family event for us every week. That’s what we did as a family. It was a huge part of my development athletically and as a person. It helped me work on my time management. You know, going to practice, getting home and doing schoolwork. It taught me how to interact with kids I didn’t know, how to interact with coaches.”
Mack himself addressed the team at its practice on Thursday, speaking of the importance of education and the impact the Raiders made on his life.
Youth Football has been under siege as of late. Parents and kids are understandably worried about concussions and the myriad of health issues that have plagued former football players.
But Youth Football has been a staple of helping kids in poor neighborhoods, inner cities and forgotten corners learn how to live life and cope with issues. Youth Football has provided a venue of safety off the field for kids despite the risks present on it.
To look across the nation and see numbers dwindling for Youth Football has been a shame to all of those men and women who grew up as kids knowing it was the only place of solace they had.
When Jeff Mack had to choose a way to give back to the community he came from, there truly was only one choice.
“Football is a great barometer for the real world,” Mack said. “It taught me how to work with people I like and people I don’t like. It taught me how to be humble. How to know that you’re never as good or bad as you think you are. It taught me a lot about myself as a man.”
The money donated by Park Bank on Thursday will help the Raiders fund this upcoming season. Things like proper equipment that makes the environment safer for kids is one of the things this donation will cover.
“The donation will be used to help replace equipment, cover the cost of transportation,” said Raiders coach Wayne Strong. “It will help pay our referees and to cover other fees that we have throughout the year.”
Strong said that the Raiders have endured throughout all generations because former players like Jeff Mack continue to give back to them.
“I think it means everything,” Strong said. “It shows that Jeff is committed to an organization he was part of for many years. It shows that for young people someday they can come back and do the things that Jeff has done. What Jeff is doing is phenomenal and we are very appreciative.”
For Mack, the feelings of appreciation are mutual.
“I just know how much fun I had and how much pride I have in the Raiders and how much fun I had when I played for them,” Mack said. “I don’t think anyone else has that feeling. I’m pretty sure the Eastside Sharks or the Warner Park Gold or something don’t have that feeling. When I’m old and I say I played for the Southside Raiders that’s gonna mean something. There’s pride behind playing for the Raiders. I’ll tell you I’m a Southside Raider before I tell you anything about me.”
And that, when it comes to time to talk about the backbone of youth sports in Madison, is all anyone would need to hear.
This story has been corrected.