Opinion

Phone-a-thon is community"s chance to help support club

By Todd Butson

These are exciting times for the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club, with the entire Island community discussing the prospect of adding much-needed youth, teen-dedicated and athletic facilities. With all stakeholders coming together to outline and produce a much-needed solution, enthusiasm for our kids and their long-term interests has never been more intense.

However, with all these ``irons in the fire,'' one might be led to believe that the programs and activities at the club may be suffering until there is better visibility for its direction and future.

Anyone with such a feeling need only drop by the club one afternoon to get a dose of the infectious energy found throughout hallways, classrooms, playground and gym.

Step one foot inside the club and you will come to know the definition of ``controlled chaos.'' Best described by Executive Director Todd Bale as ``March Madness,'' the activity level at the club is reaching a crescendo as the weather warms up and all kinds of programs kick into high gear.

As most know, the Mercer Island club has been a gathering place and safe haven for our community's young people for more than three decades. With more than 2,000 5- to 18-year-olds participating in a myriad of activities and events each year, the club works hard to instill the values of team play, giving back to the community and appreciation of individual differences.

At a time when there are few ``sure things,'' the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club stands as a true pillar of strength and stability in our community. On any given afternoon, half a dozen activities operate simultaneously, from childcare to tutoring, organizing a Kid's Carnival Day to collaborating on an Engineering Olympics, dodgeball tournaments (the last two events drew more than 300 teens) to dance classes and any number of team sports depending on the season.

The club also provides a platform for kids of all ages to organize and devote their energy to causes they feel passionate about. As an example, in response to the recent tsunami disaster, ``The Smart Girls'' and ``PM Pals'' kids raised $350 for relief aid by making beaded bracelets and selling baked goods. Not to be outdone, the Keystone and Torch clubs are currently taking pledges and participating in the upcoming MI Rotary Run half-marathon and 8k Walk to raise even more relief money.

The club has become a critical outlet and clearly makes a difference to our kids as they develop into well-rounded young citizens. However, in order to continue to deliver on this promise, the club needs your help.

Giving to the upcoming Phone-a-thon, to be held March 15-17, is a great way to support children and helps change lives. During those three nights, more than 90 volunteers, consisting of the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club 35-member Board of Directors, the 40-member Junior Board and other generous volunteer,s will contact almost 2,500 community members and ask them to donate to the club.

All proceeds from this event (the largest single fund-raiser for the club) go directly toward the approximately $1 million annual operating budget of the club. Because one-quarter of the annual budget is dependent on donations, these three nights have become critical to maintaining the quality of the club, while at the same time keeping membership and program fees affordable to every Island youth.

With more than 70 percent of all local school age children participating in club activities, you can make a valuable investment in tomorrow's leaders by contributing when we call. With your support, the club will continue to meet the high expectations for its youth this community has set for over 30 years. I urge you to help show our community that you care and that you support the Boys & Girls Club.

Donations may be made directly to the Boys & Girls Club, P.O. Box 83, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

If you would like to learn more about the club, please visit us on the web at www.mipositiveplace.org . Thank you for your support.

Islander Todd Butson is a member of the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club executive committee and co-chair of the Phone-a-thon.

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