RICHMOND, Va. -- Groups like the Broken Men Foundation are helping to keep young people from trouble.
Ellery Lundy, a former sheriff's deputy, started the foundation in 2014 after his career in law enforcement. He used his own money to start the program and it is paying off in a big way for many young men.
"Just because you've been broken doesn't mean that you stay broken," Lundy said.
A team effort is underway to keep kids out of trouble and to improve their lives. These young men are being both productive and proactive.
"I mean, literally, they're paying these guys to swim," Lundy said.
The YMCA's grant-funded program rewards swimmers with money when they reach certain milestones. This class may be vital for some participants.
According to USA Swimming, 64% of Black children have low or no swimming capabilities compared to 45% of Hispanic children and 40% of white children.
A report from the CDC said that Black children ages 10 to 14 have a 7.6% higher risk of drowning than their counterparts.
According to research, economics, race and fear play a role in these unfortunate numbers. However, programs like this are helping to close the disparity gap.
"So this gives them an opportunity not only to swim but they will teach their kids to swim," Lundy said.
Lundy created the Broken Men Foundation eight years ago and works to connect kids ages 10 to 17 to life-changing resources and experiences, like the swim class at the YMCA.
"I want to make sure that some of these young folks are better husbands, better fathers, better uncles. You know what I mean, leaders in a community," Lundy said.
Lundy and a group of men in Central Virginia volunteer as mentors.
"We have different backgrounds but come together for one common cause to make the program work and I'm so thankful for them," Lundy said.
The organization is surely making an impact in the community.
"My mom told me about it and I said, okay, this might be fun for me. And I learned everything from it. Like how to be a man," Melquan, one participant said.
"I joined it because I don't have a father figure around and my mom also wanted me to try it out to see what it was like," Josiah, another participant, said.
"When I joined, I was just cutting up in school but now when I understand my purpose and everything and what I want in life, I became more relaxed in school, not really doing much," David, another participant, said.
Lundy said about 240 young men have graduated from the program and many of them have gone on to attend college and earn good jobs.
"It's not easy. I'm not trying to act like it is," Lundy said.
He said the majority of kids make some kind of transformation and he has only had to remove one person from the program.
"I got emotional about it because I feel like when you come here if I can't reach you and I can't tell you, you can't deal with nobody," Lundy said.
It's this compassion that has led Lundy to this mission in his retirement. He served as a sheriff's deputy in Richmond for 25 years and witnessed a lot of trauma.
"You see families being ripped apart. You see a lot of kids crying, you seeing fathers go to jail, you see mothers go to jail. I was like what can I do when I retire?" Lundy said.
His commitment to finding solutions for others has been equally as beneficial for him.
"This has been the best thing ever. Reaching back and giving them an opportunity to move forward," Lundy said.
Lundy was able to expand his program this summer thanks to funding from the city.
"Normally, we just do the mentorship for like 16 to 20 weeks. And then we just kind of take a hiatus and go to our outreach program. But since the funds, we were blessed to have this that allowed us to continue our mission on in the community," Lundy said.
He said that this is just the beginning and there is more work to do and a part for everyone to play.
"It takes a village to raise this one child," Lundy said.
It's a team effort that could change lives and greatly improve the community.
"So whatever it takes, we have to get in the fight collectively to make these things work," Lundy said.
Click hereto learn more about the foundation.