The Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County are so much more than an after school activity. The organization is responsible for inspiring our youth on daily basis to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. It’s a place where students can learn to live fun yet efficient lives. The organization held its Steak & Burger Dinner at Valparaiso University on the evening of Tuesday, October 14.
Ryan Smiley, President of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, started the night off by discussing some facts and accomplishments of the clubs. Nearly 5,000 school-aged youth from various different backgrounds belong to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. Almost 900 of these students attend the clubs located in Porter County on a daily basis. Smiley mentioned several of the different programs the County’s clubs have implemented, one being the 2014 Youth of the Year Award.
Eboné Ivory, sophomore at Valparaiso High School and member of the Valparaiso Club, received the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County’s 2014 Youth of the Year award. Eboné spoke about some of her struggles and the influence that the Boys & Girls Club in Valpo has impacted her life for the better. When I got the chance to speak with Eboné, she was ecstatic and astonished to have been this year’s recipient.
Eboné said, “To be honest, I never joined the Boys & Girls Club with the intention of receiving such an award. It’s definitely a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life. This program has made me realize that I do have a story to tell, and that story can and will affect many people.”
Students get the chance to participate in a range of different activities, spanning from team basketball games or the chance to receive free tutoring services to assist students with homework. The clubs located in Porter County include the Valparaiso Unit, South Haven Unit, Forrest L. “Dusty” Rhode Portage Unit, and Kidstop, which serves as a before and after-school care service in nine different Porter County school sites. The latest addition is a new location for the Duneland Unit in Chesterton.
Caleb, third grader from the South Haven Unit, was doing a great job of representing his Boys & Girls Club pride. He told his a daily routine at the club.
He said, “First, I do my homework. Then I go and play basketball, which I like because I can practice for basketball season coming up. I also like visiting the computer lab and learning center. My favorite part is talking to all of my buddies and the staff that I know!”
The audience also had the opportunity to listen to the evening’s keynote speaker, Alex Sheen. Sheen, Founder of the nonprofit organization because I said I would, shared the inspiring story of how his organization came to be. He discussed his initial motivation to begin his lifelong journey, which was his father’s experience battling cancer. Sheen and his organization stress the importance of keeping promises and left the group with these words.
“It doesn’t matter if you remember my name, the organization’s name, or anything I’ve mentioned throughout this whole presentation. But I do present you with a challenge—make a promise. And when you follow through with that promise, you’ll know that it’s all worth it,” he said.
In conclusion, the evening was one of inspiration, motivation, and enthusiasm. It offered a chance for those making a difference in Porter County, regardless of age, to be showcased.