ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford Boys and Girls Club has launched a new gaming and eSports program.

The new program will be run out of its Fairgrounds facility at 609 Kilburn Avenue.

“When we first moved over here two years ago, they couldn’t believe they had their own gym and own building,” said Chip Stoner, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford. “Now they have a state-of-the-art gaming room and eSports room, and they just it’s just going to help them know that people want them to succeed.

A $75,000 grant from Comcast funded the program, enabling the purchase of six gaming PCs in a console gaming area that also includes three Xboxes and Nintendo Switches, plus twelve desktop computers for academic use.

The “Digital Equity Program” launched on Thursday.

Stoner said, “It’s a whole program, using the gaming and eSports as a recruitment, and a way to get the kids in, as the hook. And once we get them here, they learn the social skills, they learn the gaming skills, and they also learn what careers can be in these [gaming industries]. And, also, college scholarship opportunities, which is really exciting for our kids.”

The non-profit Cxmmunity, which provides opportunities to minority youth and students in the eSports fields, according to its website, will help provide training to staff.

Cxmmunity’s co-founder and executive director Julian Fitzgerald said, “Ninety-seven percent of teens are gaming on a weekly basis. 83% of minority youth are playing games on a weekly basis as well. And so it’s very important to give them both a means of further engaging in that space. But the programs are going to be going on here, also helping them understand the career path that can be explored.”

Stoner said he hopes kids will develop skills they can use in the technology industry.

“It is very exciting for our kids and that’s what we always want to do at the Boys and Girls Club, to level the playing field to make sure all our kids have the same opportunities,” he said.