Opinion

Support the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club this weekend

Wendy Schuler
Island Forum

How can we inspire and enable the young people in our community? How can we make sure our kids realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens? Those questions can be complicated, but I have an easy answer. You can answer the call for support next week during the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club annual Phone-a-Thon on Feb. 27 and 28.

The Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club has been serving the youth in our community since 1969 with a variety of programs, activities and services, including league sports, before- and after-school programs, camping activities, community service projects, leadership opportunities and social recreation. The club coordinates many sports on the Island, but that is only part of the positive impact it is having on our kids.

This year, the high school leadership group, Jr. Board, has raised money for the victims of the wildfires in California, and they are involved in a national Boys & Girls Club project to promote positive teen images in the media. These high-schoolers are also volunteering at homeless shelters and cleaning up parks. The middle school leadership group, Torch Club, has been very busy this year! Twenty-five of our middle school students successfully put on four very popular dances at the club, and they are creating a recycling program at IMS to reduce waste during lunch.

In the past year, the club added movie-making classes to its program offerings, which turned out to be a big hit. The kids learned the fundamentals of movie making, editing and interviewing. Once again, the kids gained invaluable experience in leadership, organization and management skills when they produced the first Club Film Festival in October. Over 60 members, parents and volunteers attended the red-carpet event. An awestruck first-grader gasped, “Oh, my! I can’t believe you decorated the gym so beautifully! I feel like a movie star!”

And then, there is the sports program. The Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club athletic programs provide members, regardless of their athletic ability, with the opportunity to learn new skills, have fun and feel good about themselves when participating in youth sports. We were reminded of this at our most recent Saturday morning board meeting. One of our board members told us a story about her son, now a senior in college. When he played basketball as a first-grader at MIBGC, her son did not make a basket all season. During the final game, it was apparent that the coach and players really wanted her son to get a basket. She told us how the kids repeatedly passed him the ball and shouted encouragement. Although he came close, her son did not get a basket that day. But his coach and teammates were so supportive with high-fives and shouts of “great shot” that you may have thought he was the star player. She described that day as one of the defining moments in the life of her now 22-year-old son. As we wiped our eyes, several of us remembered our children having similar experiences at the club. We hope you can show your support next week during the Phone-a-Thon so that we can continue to create these defining moments for the youth and teens of our community.

Wendy Schuler is Chair of the 2008 Phone-a-Thon and a member of the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club Advisory Board. The Phone-a-Thon is from 6-8:30 p.m., Feb. 27-28. All contributions from the fundraiser go directly toward the operating budget of the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club.

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