Certainly, times have changed since Elizabeth Hammersley and sisters, Mary and Alice Goodwin, founded The Dashaway Club in Hartford in 1860. Still, some things remain the same. Such as our mission.
For more than 150 years, our mission's enduring focus on kids who need us most has guided us to provide youth with mentoring and opportunities to learn and grow. The bedrock of that first Club was the notion of a safe place where kids could stay out of harm’s way and out of trouble. It was the incubation of youth development and the Club’s ability to transform and save a young person’s life.
This annual visit also offers clarity for challenges ahead and the incessant poverty and desperation that continues to vex our country. It is energizing to feel the strength and spirit of the Boys & Girls Club Movement each January, and know that Clubs across the country are making a difference every day in the lives of those who need us most.
As Clubs focus on helping children and teens achieve our priority outcomes of academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles, we are reminded of the moral imperative to advance our mission and amplify the voices of those without one. Clubs are a key ingredient to the American dream, which remains at risk if we, as a nation, do not begin to fill the chasm between the haves and have-nots.
Teens especially need our support, as recent challenges in Club membership show. To address this, BGCA has designated 2016 the “Year of the Teen.” We will concentrate on helping more teens join Boys & Girls Clubs and graduate from high school college- or career-ready.
It’s also time to think about the future. Will we look back in a decade and say the lives of today’s young people were improved because of the work we did? By having a big, bold, aggressive plan for the next decade, we can ensure America’s kids have a level playing field when it comes to opportunities and access.
Thanks to President/CEO Sam Gray of the Hartford Club for always being a gracious host. Thanks as well to the board, staff and children for making me feel so welcome, as well as Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. As a huge fan and champion of Clubs, Gov. Malloy has helped with Club renovations and new buildings. He is currently serving as a campaign chair for the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford. Shout-outs also to the Connecticut State Alliance’s Don Maleto and CEO Mike Cotela of the Stamford Club for joining us.
As the day came to a close, one could not help but think about the year 1860 and the vision those women had to create the first Club -- now the world’s largest and strongest facility-based youth development organization. Our responsibility is to carry this forward and continue the growth and impact on kids and teens who need us most in America.
Happy New Year and God Bless!