The Real Men Real Heroes concept was developed in Wichita, Kansas late in 2006 by Wichita Philanthropist, Barry Downing and his children’s Projects Manager, Polly Basore. Their belief was that there was a need to create something to counteract the damaging effects of young men living in a society that exposes them to media images that seemed to portray black men as either criminals or successful only in the fields of pro sports or entertainment.
From this was born the concept introducing local black youth to real men in their community who were everyday heroes. In March 2007, Basore invited two dozen members of the community to form an advisory committee to shape what became The Real Men Real Heroes Project. Initially nominations were sought from the public to identify men who qualified as exemplary role models. Nominations were then reviewed by the advisory committee and subjected to formal background checks.
A group of 32 men were then invited to join the project, taking on the role of being identified as a Hero in the community. The heroes immediately began serving youth by visiting classrooms and other venues around Wichita. In May 2008, President Bush recognized Hero Buddy Shannon with a Presidents Call to Service Award during a visit to Wichita. With the pilot project complete, the Heroes in June 2008 set out to form a board and establish their own non-profit organization.