COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – After a violent week in Columbus, with two teens being killed by gun violence in three days, city leaders are ramping up efforts to stop crime and stressing the importance of getting youth involved in productive programs.

One of those programs is Legacy U, whose goal is to engage children through sports and other future career paths to keep them out of trouble and to inspire them to believe that they can have a productive future.

One of Legacy U’s biggest programs is its youth football league, which organizers said involves about 3,000 children, both players and cheerleaders of all ages.

“So it’s kind of immeasurable how many kids we may be saving by providing a Saturday football game, Sunday football game,” said Legacy Youth Football League Vice President Keith Massey.

When the football league started three years ago, the goal was to show these inner-city children that there is more out there than the environment around them. They wanted to keep the kids out of trouble and give them mentors to look up to.

“I talk with some kids and they find out we are business owners of other businesses, so they are always like, ‘What do I need to do to start a business?’” Massey said. 

Legacy Youth Sports works hand in hand with the Columbus City Council to help push an anti-violence initiative.

“It’s bigger than football and basketball,” Massey said. “It’s bigger than sports. It’s more like you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it. It’s just like letting these kids know that the world is bigger than the environment we come from.”

Parents whose children are involved in the league said it gives their kids something positive to look forward to, rather than slipping down the wrong path.

“I think, for me, for my son to see the mentorship, to see him look up to positive Black men, one to help drive his future in a positive direction,” said parent Eboni Wade.

“They just help me through it,” said player Jace Gadison. “If I don’t get it, they say, ‘Work on it.'”

Saturday marks a huge night for Legacy Youth Sports as organization leaders are kicking off their annual awards banquet to honor the hard work of their players.

“Our mission is to help the underserved youth find opportunities,” Massey said. “Let our kids see stuff that’s outside of what’s their normal, what they are used to, you know, in the inner city.”

Columbus has given millions to this and several other programs across the city to programs aimed at stopping youth violence. For more information on what the city has done, click here for youth athletic leagues and click here for neighborhood safety initiatives.