My first day on the job as BGCA’s president came five years ago. I visited the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford in Connecticut. It’s where Alice Goodwin, Mary Goodwin and Elizabeth Hammersley organized the first Club in 1860 to provide boys – who’d otherwise have been on the streets unsupervised – with a safe, fun place to spend time.
It was both meaningful and humbling to spend my first day in the very place where the Boys & Girls Club Movement was born. So much so, I make it a point begin every year at the Hartford Club. My latest New Year’s visit came last Thursday.
Martha Olang, a Hartford Club alum and the 2013 Northeast Youth of the Year, introduced me. She did the same my first day on the job in 2012, and has every year since. This young woman has accomplished so much since we first met. Through Youth of the Year scholarships and assistance from her Club, she’s been studying forensic science and technology at Chaminade University of Honolulu. She’ll graduate this spring and wants to work for the FBI. Martha’s success is not unlike that of so many other successful Club alumni.
We also visited the site of the original Club, which made me think about the shoulders of the many greats we stand on. People like John Collins. As the first Club professional, he devised an informal system to draw boys to the Club, capture their interest, improve their behavior and increase their personal expectations and goals. Those procedures formed the basis of the Club Experience that are still used today.
Start to finish, it was the perfect way to start the year. Hanging with Club kids, connecting with local leaders, and meeting representatives of The Hartford, our new national partner. As ever, my thanks to Sam Gray, president and CEO of the Hartford Club, for graciously hosting my visit. Happy New Year, everyone.