FORT WORTH — Growing up in Waco, LaDainian Tomlinson could find role models and focus on his dreams at the Boys & Girls Club where the distractions of peer pressure, drugs and violence stopped at the door.Its possible for you to be standing where I am now, but you have to make a choice, Tomlinson told young people during a ceremony Thursday at the North Fort Worth Boys & Girls Club, 2000 Ellis Ave.Tomlinson is hoping local youths find a similar safe place at club located near the Stockyards, north of downtown Fort Worth.Tomlinsons Touching Lives Foundation, the Cullen Thomason family, Aarons and Goldman Sachs teamed up to help renovate a teen room complete with a gym, computers and study space. Not surprisingly, purple is the main color of the room.Its a great feeling, said Malik Williams, 16, as he looked around the renovated room. Basically, this is a second home to me. Its a safe place to go and make new friends. Organizers said the renovations cost about $17,500. They said it was a much-needed investment for children, tweens and teens who will use the space to study, play and even plan for college or work. We needed new furniture, said Daphne Barlow Stigliano, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth. We needed new paint.Stigliano said they worked to make the room a place teens want to be while also being near staff and volunteers who can help them talk about their future.The teen room honors Tomlinsons football days at Texas Christian University on a wall mural painted by local volunteers. A signed TCU jersey will be kept on display in the room.Brian Hall, who works in the clubs gang intervention program, said the Boys & Girls Clubs help shelter youth from the dangers in some communities.In the 1990s, it was rough. Gang problems, Hall said, recalling how he often went to the north side branch. I was coming here. Staying off the streets. Staying out of trouble.Tomlinson, or LT, is well-known in Fort Worth. A record-setting running back at TCU, he went on to star with the San Diego Chargers and the New York Jets. I grew up in a Boys & Girls Club in Waco, Tomlinson told teens gathered for the rooms public unveiling Thursday. It gave me a place to come whenever I needed to get away.Tomlinson said he credits his success to being able to have a safe place to go and think about his dreams.Know what my dream was? he asked youngsters gathered at the event. To run the football.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1