PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — Clyde Williams walked down Seward Street letting memories wash over him.
“This is where everything started, the good and the bad,” said Williams.
The 18-year-old has seen more in his short life than many do in decades.
“I was living in a bad neighborhood,” Clyde explained. “It was a lot of drugs throughout my household, a lot of bad things going on.”
He and his twin sister Claudia met Sandy Arena, the coordinator of Rhythms of Joy, a faith-based dance program connecting with lower income communities.
Children turned in prayer cards at the end of each class, and what Arena read would haunt her forever.
“These two little 6-year-olds with their big brown eyes, gave us their cards that said, ‘dear god please let us find out who murdered our cousin’,” she said. “I knew in that moment we would be connected forever.”
Their cousin Stacey “Bam-Bam” Long was fatally shot in 2005, when he was 15 years old.
The Williams twins spent their childhood moving between homes, with different guardians, often not knowing where their next meal would come. The Arenas were always a constant, offering a meal or a roof to sleep underneath.
Sandy and her husband Sam signed Clyde up for a YMCA flag football league alongside her son Caleb, who was in the same grade as Clyde.
“Sports were basically my escape,” said Clyde. “When I was on the field, all I thought about was winning the game and living in the moment.”
Caleb and Clyde’s friendship grew as their footballs careers progressed, often spending the weekend and school nights to be taken to and from practice.
After a lot of chaos in Clyde and Claudia’s home lives, Sam and Sandy decided to petition for guardianship of the twins in March of 2017.
“When they were with us, our family felt complete,” said Sandy.
They won, and the five-person Arena family grew to seven.
It was an emotional moment for Clyde in particular, with uncertainties about the future. He did know it was the best opportunity for him.
“I actually had people who cared about me and wanted to get the best out of me,” said Clyde.
For the first time in his life, he only had to focus on going to school and playing football. A senior running back for the Pittsford Panthers, he plays varsity alongside his brother, a linebacker, in a full circle moment for the boys.
“They are fierce competitors,” said Keith Molinich, head coach for Pittsford. “It’s interesting how they battle the game together. They’re both tremendous athletes and tremendous brothers.”
“He’s someone I look up to, someone who inspires me with what he’s accomplished and the transitions he’s made and the things he’s done in his life,” said Caleb. “I’m proud to be his brother.”