Bellaire Legion donates to local youth program
BELLAIRE — American Legion Post 52 in Bellaire is continuing its efforts to support the community by funding a program that assists local youth.
On Thursday, the legion donated $1,000 to R.L. Strength and Conditioning to aid the youth program. Members presented the check to Rick Leigh, owner of the nonprofit.
Dickie Johnson, finance officer for the legion, said members wanted to help support the program’s efforts in helping guide young residents.
“Around the Ohio Valley, I don’t see anything that younger kids have to do and that’s a really good program he has going on to get the kids off the street and give them some purpose,” he said.
Johnson said the legion uses funds it receives through state gambling to give back to the community. He said the legion has a gambling license it uses to sell instant tickets and have video machines. The proceeds from this are used to support local charities and programs.
“We get requests for donations all the time and most of them … if it’s around this area, we donate,” he said. “We are here, just like our preamble says, we are here for God and country and children and youth and serving veterans.”
Leigh described the donation as a “blessing” for the nonprofit, which helps to guide youth in the community. He said much of the gift will be used for the annual “Summer Bash” that is held for the kids and members of the community.
“It’s for the kids in the community to come out and have a good time. We have it for the kids to reward their hard work and for the community because they give back and support us. We will have free food, bouncy houses, free face painting for the kids and at night, we’ll have a nice concert for them with local artists performing,” he said, adding that this year’s event will be held July 27 at the Hidden Hills Event Center in Bellaire.
Leigh launched the youth program in 2020 to provide kids from all around the Ohio Valley something productive to do.
“I started the program three years ago for the kids of the valley to get them off the street, out of trouble and give them something to do. I know times are hard in the valley, so I made the program absolutely free,” he said.
The program is completely free for youth from age 4 up to high school seniors. Through the program, kids are given strength and conditioning training, as well as opportunities to participate in other activities.
“Kids can come and train and work out. We do strength and conditioning, cardio, weight training and boxing,” he said.
The program runs twice a week, beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. on Saturdays at the Nelson Jordan Center in Wheeling. Leigh said all of the area’s youth are welcome to join.
Leigh said the organization relies on grants and donations to help support the program’s efforts. He said he enjoys rewarding the kids for their hard work and providing them with shirts, gym bags and other items they may need.
Along with providing youth with cardio and activities, Leigh said they also mentor the kids who attend.
“It’s a mentorship program. I like to teach the kids the right way and that hard work pays off, so I created a sponsorship where people can sponsor a kid where if they do good in school and come to training, they receive gifts,” he said. “… Whatever they need, we try to provide them with and show them with a good work ethic anything is possible.”
There are currently around 56 kids involved in the program, coming from all around the Ohio Valley.
“Any kid in the valley is welcome, from either side of the river,” he said. “We’ve got kids from Bellaire, Martins Ferry, Shadyside, Bridgeport, and we’ve also got kids from Wheeling Park and John Marshall (high schools).”
Those interested in participating in the program can simply show up on the specified dates or call Leigh at 304-780-8436 for more information.