In May 2009 the Boys & Girls Clubs of America hosted their annual National Conference in Atlanta, GA. During this time Boys & Girls Club employees and board members from all over the country come together for a weeklong session of workshops and seminars. One of the main highlights of the conference is that various Clubs are awarded for their achievements over the past year, and this year the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound proudly took home three awards.
Each year Clubs are honored for their work in one of five core program areas; Character & Leadership Development, Education & Career Development, Health & Life Skills, The Arts and Sports, Fitness & Recreation. This year the Lakewood Branch received the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National 2009 Merit Award for the Fine Arts Program. The Lakewood Branch established their Drama Club in 2007. Currently, over one hundred Club members have participated in various performances. The purpose of the Drama Club is to recognize and enhance the talent that already exists in youth. The drama program incorporates a safe and positive environment for Club members by giving them an activity to go to where they can express their originality in a positive way. They have an opportunity to be actors, fashion designers, architects, and writers while designing their costumes, making sets, performing roles and creating scripts. Members have shown enormous improvement throughout their Drama Club experience. Members that were once too shy to get up and say a line in front of one adult are now able to perform in front of large audiences. Their self-esteem and confidence advances exponentially through participation in the program.
The second honor that the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound received was the Partnership Award. The award recognizes the organization’s exemplary partnership between neighboring military Youth Center’s and superior service to the children of military personnel. Over the past year, through the enormous efforts of the organizations Military Outreach Director, Armando Mejia, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound has doubled the Club memberships of military family dependents. Through such a strong military partnership Club members have been afforded opportunities such as visiting Safeco Field and presenting the Color Guard before fans during an at home Mariners game as well as performing plays for Wounded Warriors returning home from Iraq. This prestigious award is only given to two Clubs in the entire country, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound takes great pride in their outstanding relationship with the military.
The final award the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound received was in a category titled, Inspire Someone: Closing the Gift. It was a process that incorporated the organizations Board Chairman, Greg Paine and the Vice President of Development, Judy Hosea. As a team the two performed on stage at the 2009 Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Conference before a panel of judges giving a mock presentation of how to approach someone and invite them to be a donor and become more involved within the organization. After hours of preparation and making it past the preliminary round with four other teams the judges awarded the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound First Place! As a result the team was presented with airfare and lodging to attend the 2010 National Conference in New York, NY where they will have the opportunity to coach other conference attendees.
The National Conference was a great time for the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound to be highlighted for their growth over the past year and the positive impacts that they have made on youth. It just so happened that on the last day of the conference a very special East Side Boys & Girls Club alumnus happened to be in Atlanta. Ben Warner, dubbed the creator of Longboarding America for Kids stopped in Atlanta on his way to Savannah and completing the 2,500 mile trek across the US on his longboard while visiting 14 Boys & Girls Clubs along the way talking with youth about the importance of setting goals, eating healthy and staying in school. Along with the rest of his team, 3 longboarders and a support vehicle driver, the team were guests at the conference where they were recognized and applauded for their enormous efforts before amazed conference attendees. Ben Warner is living proof that the Boys & Girls Clubs truly work; he graduated from the University of Washington Tacoma on June 12, 2009, congratulations Ben!
A special thank you to the dedicated staff, board members and volunteers at the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound who work hard everyday to positively impact the lives of youth.