BALTIMORE — As the heat ramps up with summer, so does the gun violence along with efforts to protect our youth from it.
That's the goal of Challenge 2 Change's founder.
Running a summer camp with his family and giving kids a safe space to have fun, grow and heal.
Terry 'Uncle T' Williams says they aim to empower youth through love, time and mentorship.
The first hot summer day was well spent by playing, sweating and being kids at Uncle T’s camp.
One that over the years, has grown from six boys to 60 boys and girls who alike have their own stories to tell like Corey Little.
"I lost my pops. Uncle T lost his son. I’m sure he lost close people and when I lost my father, he was the one telling me keep my head high like get back and retaliation is not it," Little shared.
"Whenever you get in conflict, you feel escalate it. Don’t try to go back in forth with no one," Uncle T explained to the student huddled around Fort Worthington Middle School's gym.
The conversations they have surrounding conflict resolution is one Uncle T says is crucial.
"When our children walk out that front door, we wanna know that they’re equipped to walk back in man," he explained.
At the camp they play hard, they run fast and they let their unseen wounds heal through the support of their peers.
"A lot of kids go through a lot at home. I hear kids tell me I heard shots outside of my house and when they come to Challenge 2 Change I just see them do nothing but smile," said Marquise Williams, Uncle T's son.
This summer, he's home from college serving alongside him.
Less than a month ago, he lost his best friend to gun violence which is part of his motivation to join his dad encouraging youth to choose their own path.
He says his own experience with trauma is part of that driving force as well.
"I got two other brothers who have been the outcome of you know not being there. My brother is currently locked up and my oldest brother got killed, but he made sure he was in my life so it’s nothing but an honor and blessing working beside him. He’s my best friend my big brother and my father," he shared.
It's a similar story with his sister who lost her fiancé to gun violence.
She's spending this summer helping to build up girls who are now able to attend camp for the first time.
"With our young women, we’re teaching them etiquette, being a proper woman, being able to hold their head up knowing what their true value is," Markia Cherry said.
Helping the young people clear their heads to heal and create space for focus on their future takes a sense of empathy and experience they say they find in Uncle T and his family.
The kid's summer camp will last eight weeks at Fort Worthington Middle School in East Baltimore.
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