RICHMOND -- Although it has been nearly a decade since former De La Salle High football star Terrance Kelly was shot and killed, he remains a role model for local youth.
Teens involved in activities sponsored by the Terrance Kelly Youth Foundation showed up Saturday at the Coronado Community YMCA to help beautify the outdoor space in an area that had previously been neglected and overgrown with weeds. Landrin and Mary Kelly, Terrance's father and stepmother, coordinated the effort with the help of Home Depot and YMCA volunteers.
"It's teaching the boys how to give back to the community," said Landrin Kelly, as he watched teens hammering together picnic tables, spreading dirt and planting shrubs. "We're giving them more opportunities to succeed. It's about stopping violence in the community."
The Kellys established the foundation after Terrance's death to provide after-school tutoring, mentoring, life skills and leadership training to local girls and boys. The foundation aims to keep youth off the streets and encourages them to remember Terrance's commitment to helping others, while he pursued his educational goals.
Kelly was considered a hero in the community because he did not get involved in drugs or gangs but instead focused on studying and bettering his life. He was killed just days before he was to attend the University of Oregon on a scholarship by a teen boy who was allegedly jealous of Kelly's success.
"We wanted to do this to keep his memory alive," said Mary Kelly, who came into Terrance's life when he was 4. "He would feed the homeless and the brotherhood that he learned at De La Salle was amazing."
Mary Kelly, who works at Home Depot in Vallejo, talked to her boss about the need to spruce up the landscaping around the YMCA, where the foundation activities take place. Store manager Allen Fox agreed to donate about $1,000 worth of materials from the store and also solicited donations from vendors, who provided soil, bark and strawberries. About 20 volunteers from Home Depot stores in Vallejo, El Cerrito and Hercules donned gardening gloves, dug dirt and put together picnic tables, transforming the YMCA side yard behind a chain-link fence into a welcoming area.
Fox said he also plans to offer classes to teens in the foundation's programs, teaching them to repair gypsum wallboard, lighting and plumbing, so they'll have marketable skills when they graduate from high school. Kevin Aviles, 15, said he appreciated the skills he was learning in the garden project, as well as through the foundation's EAGLES program, which stands for "Education allows growth, leadership, empowerment and success."
"Success doesn't come easily," Kevin said. "You have to work hard for it. You have to go out there and get it."
He was just a young boy when Terrance Kelly was killed, but Kevin said the Richmond hero has left a strong impression on the community.
"He's like a positive role model to all of us," Kevin said. "Most people want to be like him -- to get out of here and go to college."
Terrance's younger sister, Trameka Godfrey-Kelly, 26, mentors girls in the foundation's ANGELS program, which is similar to EAGLES. She stresses that one wrong decision can change a life forever.
For example, she said one girl in the program who had been turning her life around decided to hang out with her boyfriend at 1 a.m. when she should have been home. He was playing with his gun and accidentally shot and killed her, Godfrey-Kelly said.
The YMCA project, she said, is especially poignant to her because it is near the corner of South 19th Street and Maine Avenue, where she last saw her brother alive. Like the teens in the foundation's programs, she said she looked up to Terrance, who would have turned 28 on April 23.
"Even though he's gone," she said, "he's still changing lives as if he were here."
For details about the Terrance Kelly Youth Foundation, go to http://tkyf28.org.
To see video clips regarding the foundation and YMCA beautification project, go to www.contracostatimes.com/education.