TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Bay-area Boys & Girls Clubs made a big announcement on Wednesday, Nov. 1 with a plan to make a greater impact on our local youth.

Boys & Girls Clubs across America strive to help young people reach their full potential.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast and Tampa Bay announced a collaboration. Leaders said it will make them better together.

The clubs will serve 2,500 kids across 35 sites.

“The club saved my life as a kid,” said Freddy Williams, the new President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast and Tampa Bay.

Williams was previously the Suncoast club’s CEO.

“We’ve all seen the disruption that’s happened in our society over the last couple of years and the challenges that youth face today are extraordinary,” Williams said. “It will require innovative approaches with new interventions, new operating models, and new strategies.”

Williams said they will implement more mental health programs for kids, opioid prevention programs for middle schoolers, and will come up with ways to address gun violence.

They will continue to try and mold kids into responsible citizens through after-school programs.

“Just in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office from 2022 to date, we’ve arrested over 2,200 kids,” PCSO Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “That’s a bad thing, that’s a bad number. That’s what we’re trying to prevent and how you do that is by keeping them occupied and keeping them on the right track.”

Williams said they will ensure every Boys and Girls Clubs’ staff members will be certified in mental health first aid to be able to recognize and respond to challenges kids face.

“Now is the time for us to have extraordinary interventions and it’s going to take all of us looking at best practices from Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough Counties and find ways that we can replicate them,” the CEO said.

Williams addressed what his first days as CEO will include. He said he’s going to talk to the kids, parents, and club leaders to gain a better understanding of local issues.