In today’s economic times, many parents work and struggle to make ends meet. Many single parents take on multiple jobs in order to provide the necessities for their children. This work load often leaves the children home alone or in need of a safe place to go. For over 20 years, Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne has been a place where kids can go to be safe and have fun. It helps children by providing a positive outlet for their energy while keeping them off of the streets. Keeping them off of the streets helps to keep them out of trouble. The Boys and Girls Club teaches children how to build relationships with others. This skill is extremely important to our youth as they grow and face challenging situations in life. They learn about choices, right ones and wrong ones. The staff genuinely cares for the students which makes it feel like a home away from home. The club provides quality programming to kids regardless of their family and financial situation. I knew of Boys and Girls Clubs, but I wanted to learn more about how they serve the children of our community.
I spent some time volunteering at the largest club in Fort Wayne. The Executive Director reached out to me after he heard about our project and he has been very supportive of our mission. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend a few hours touring the facility, learning about the programs, and hanging with the kids. That is my volunteer experience in a nutshell. I spent time hanging with the kids and I had an unbelievable time. We played basketball, bumper pool, and pool. We laughed and joked around. I feel like I made a number of new friends in just a few hours. The time spent was a learning experience with 3 major takeaways:
1. Boys and Girls Clubs are more than just a hangout for kids. It offers a wide array of programs that enrich the lives of the students. It offers programming that teaches the children about budgets, self-esteem, bullying, and music, just to name a few. I did not realize just how many programs they offered until I had the chance to volunteer. The club is helping kids grow. It is helping kids to ultimately reach their potential.
2. Investing a small amount of time makes a difference. I have said this many times over that last 32 weeks and I believe it to be true in every aspect of life. My experience this week reaffirmed my belief in this thought. While in the gym, I started shooting baskets with a few of the kids. Instantly, there was a connection. For the next hour, these kids didn’t leave my side. They called me “7 Foot” and I called them “3,4, and 5 foot.” We played games and talked. These kids opened up to me and talked about their life situations. They became very comfortable with me. Why? Because I was investing time in them. At that moment in time, they knew that I cared. As the day came to an end, two young ladies asked if I was coming back the next day. They seemed to be very disappointed when I told them that I wasn’t. I think that I was disappointed too.
3. I am terrible at Billiards. I played pool and bumper pool with the kids and lost every game. Not one game was even close. They cleaned the floor with me and they let me know about it. For anyone that knows me, I do not like to lose at anything. On this day, it was not an option. The kids were simply too good and they ran me off of the tables. I plan to volunteer at the club again in the future. You better believe that I will be practicing.
In today’s world, the need for the service provided by Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne continues to grow. They serve approximately 250 kids from our community each and every day. We are blessed, like so many other communities, to have these clubs in our city. I encourage you to spend some time at the club and meet the children. You can visit www.bgca.org to find a club near you. In Fort Wayne, visit www.bgcfw.org to learn more about our local organization. By doing so, you will see that Boys and Girls Clubs are a positive place for kids. I guarantee it.