“Access to opportunities”—it’s a phrase that Bobby Walker, Jr. CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich (BGCG) says frequently when talking about the organization, which, for more than 100 years, has been providing children of all socioeconomic backgrounds “a safe, productive, caring place for kids in the after-school hours.” Yet, the Boys & Girls Club is substantially more than that. In addition to providing kids with after-school homework help, art and computer classes, sports teams and aquatics and educational programming including STEM classes (even a Lego robotics team!), all for just $50 a year, it’s a source of mentorship and encouragement for kids ages 6 to 18. Scholarships are also available for those for whom even $50 a year is a stretch and for summer camps.
Currently, the BGCG operates with a handful of full-time staff, part-time youth development professionals, and about 300 volunteers ranging from local students to retired educators. Bruna da Cunha, a BGCG member since 2006, became a student leader at BGCG and is now a student at the University of Connecticut. She says her role as a leader for the younger children has contributed to her achievements today. “To me, these individual stories are the most powerful thing that anyone who is considering getting involved can hear,” says Greg Martinez, event co-chair (with Nick Graziano) and BGCG board member.
Youth of the Year
It is part of the reason for the first time this year, the 49th Annual Youth of the Year award ceremony will be held as a public ceremony and fundraiser at the organization’s Greenwich clubhouse on February 9. The award winner is determined by a series of essays and interviews about how the club has influenced each young person’s life.
“They talk about how ‘its my home away from home,’ ‘it taught me how to be a man,’ ‘it taught me responsibility,’” says Walker of past Youth of the Year winners, including one young man from Chile who found his male role model at the club after his own father abandoned the family following their immigration to this country.
“The Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich has always felt like home to me,” attests da Cunha. “The club has an interesting way of leaving an imprint on those who have walked its hallways.”
This year, the club embarks on a mission of outreach to inspire the local community to remain connected to the BGCG on a long-term basis and hear these stories firsthand. “I want the community to know that we are invested in Greenwich, invested in the youth of Greenwich,” says Walker. “Our club is a living example that these kids are the future, and a future that we should all be proud of.”
Contact: Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, 203-869-3224, 4 Horseneck Lane, Greenwich, CT, bgcg.org
Text by Jill Sieracki