PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As gun violence continues to rise, one group is using the therapeutic power of gaming to reach at-risk youth.
The Philadelphia Gaming Initiative is in partnership with multiple other programs including the Institute for Development of African American Youth (IDAAY), and Don't Fall Down in the Hood.
The gaming portion of the group activities and therapy takes part on Fridays at 6101 Limekiln Pike. Their nights typically start out with group sessions, where a mentor will teach the kids life skills and also discuss the importance of healthy decision-making.
One of the programs directors, Michael Brown, says the programs go hand in hand. He realizes that the games are very appealing to the youth but the program also allows them the unwind, bond and have a safe and healthy space to engage with their peers.
Most of the youth in attendance have prior charges against them and are court-ordered to attend. Organizers say that none of them have ever discharged a gun but some have been charged with possessing a firearm.
Some of the young men come to take part in the mentoring and gaming just as a way to stay off the streets and stay out of trouble.
Brown says the program is not strictly for young men, although it is made up entirely of them. He plans to not only have the gaming initiative but to also open up some of their other rec rooms to appeal to young women as well.
He says they will eventually have activities such as self-branding, painting lessons, cooking lessons, and hopefully much more.
Organizers say that any help from the public is welcome. The program is entirely free for the kids attending. Donations are accepted in any form. Programs through IDAAY run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.