The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is an inspiring story of providing hope, opportunity, and a commitment to inclusion for young people, building character and responsible citizens across our country.
The first Boys’ Club was founded in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut, by three women. In 1906, 53 independent Boys’ Clubs came together in Boston to form a national organization, the Federated Boys’ Clubs. In 1931, the organization renamed itself Boys’ Clubs of America, and in 1990, to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. This year marks 125 years of providing hope and opportunity to young people across the country.
Once a Club Kid, always a Club Kid … even 55 years later. Ignoring creaky knees whose decline may well have started when crouching behind home plate during those flexible years of my youth, I ascended the workbench in my garage so I could take down the “license plate” picture shown with this blog. District Heights Boys Club. 1966. Goodness gracious sakes alive.
What a rush of memories. Not so much of athletic feats, but more so of baseball and bowling (duckpins) teammates and their moms and dads. There is something matchlessly special about lifelong friendships that began as a group of youngsters and teenagers bonded together through competition. That I can pick up the phone today, more than half a century later, and call some of those former teammates is … delicious.
Interestingly enough, perhaps even stronger memories are intact related to the fathers who took on volunteer coaching responsibilities. Messrs. Brown, Farley, Scalise, Hay, Hudson, Borgess, St. Ledger and a few others whose names escape me helped mold many a young boy during that 4-5-year period, teaching us far more than skills and providing far more than encouragement. Unquestionably backed up by our mothers, the dads played an immeasurable part in instilling in us virtues that we carry to this day — the importance of teamwork, loyalty, humility, trust, tenaciousness, respect, reliability, integrity, determination, confidence, the worth of hard work and practice … and so much more.
The value that we kids didn’t appreciate at the time was service — theirs, to their sons, daughters, and community. They had the simplest of job descriptions — molding and modeling — but also perhaps the most important. At the time, we focused on their on-field/on-lanes/on-court teachings as coaches — keep your elbow up or in, get a good base on the field/court, block out, follow through with your delivery or shot, discover the value of practice and repetition. What we didn’t appreciate at the time was their altruistic contributions to our young lives. We realize now that their key leave-behinds were to help us attain a greater sense of achievement and reach our potential as young boys and girls. They strived to ingrain in us that effort was more important than a trophy, as well as the lessons learned from coming up short (visit The Art and Values of Losing). They were there at every turn to help us young-uns navigate the emotions and challenges so ubiquitous and vital to our social development. It turns out those life-changing impacts were more important than turning a double play, finding the open teammate, or picking up that spare.
Thanks, gentlemen. And thanks, also, to Boys & Girls Clubs, a longtime safe, crucial place to learn, grow and become young men and women.
If you’re a Club Kid alumnus or alumnae, consider supporting Boys & Girls Clubs. Visit here to make a donation and join the network of your former peers. Lastly, though dads and moms aren’t in the Club Hall of Famers roster, it’s indeed an impressive group of stalwart, solid citizens who are enshrined — visit the Club/Alumni Hall of Fame here.