NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A young man in Newport News is taking back the community by turning a negative into a positive for hundreds of kids in our area.
Twenty-eight-year-old Cameron Bertrand was shot in the leg leaving a Norfolk homecoming game three years ago. Since then, he’s been inspiring children across Hampton Roads at the Boys and Girls Club.
However, he is using experience to start something of his own: Violence Intervention and Prevention or V.I.P. It is an organization that provides counseling, mentoring and advocacy to prevent or transition past violence experiences.
“I got a lot of homies that didn’t even make it out of their 20’s and that really stands out to me because I was given a second chance to do this, I was given a second chance in life to do exactly what I’m doing now and to take that opportunity and throw it away and do some of the things I was doing when I got shot…it doesn’t make sense,” said Bertrand. “I am a father figure for hundreds of youth throughout the Hampton Roads area. I am going to do everything I can to be there for them.”
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This includes 16-year-old Camari McGill, who is mentored by Bertrand and is now using that knowledge to help other children. McGill opened up about why he reached out to Bertrand for advice.
McGill says his father abandoned him at a young age.
“It’s like a double edge sword in the heart, it’s like getting physically hurt but you can’t see the wound, it’s like lemon juice and salt mixed together in a wound,” McGill said. “Growing up, I was abandoned by my father because I was diagnosed with autism and ADD.”
McGill ran away from home several times and admits that things have been rough a lot in his life. McGill met Bertrand at the Boys and Girls Club in Newport News. He says Bertrand brought hope back into his life.
“We will have fun; I never had fun with anyone before. He’s like my dad,” McGill said.
For that reason and many others, Bertrand said he started an organization to help kids who need him.
Helana Thomas is a teenager who has learned a lot from Bertrand and she too regards him as a father figure in her life. In fact, Bertrand named Thomas, 16, President of Youth Leadership for Violence Prevention and Intervention.
“We are getting kind of violent in America right now and I feel this is the perfect counter-act,” said Thomas. “I’m really into [spreading knowledge to] my youth about really what they can do.”
The organization is aiming to take back the community, something Bertrand has dedicated his life to doing for his community.
“We are bringing back that sense of a village and know that our youth have the support they need and they can know they have the support that they can go out be a part of a life changing experience.”
To reach out to Cameron Bertrand, click here.