By Adam Beach
My experience with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland started 9 years ago but the reason I got involved started even before that. Prior to moving to Cleveland I lived in Milwaukee. While there I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was fortunate to be matched with a 7 year boy named Peter. Peter was the seventh of nine children living with their single mother who was unable to work due to disability. I would typically spend one evening during the week with Peter and then on Sundays his mom would invite me to have dinner with the entire family. Lacking resources did not stop her from being a very kind and generous host and she loved her children more than anything. While I tried to help Peter in any way I could part of me struggled because I saw eight other children who needed just as much help.
That feeling drove me to try and find an organization where I felt I could help make a larger impact. Soon after moving to Cleveland I was introduced to the Boys and Girls Clubs and realized the impact they have on the community was exactly what I was looking for. Coincidentally at that time my cousin met Ron Soeder (President of BGCC) and with help from Ron’s daughter they decided to try and start a Young Professionals Board. A handful of us met to outline how our group could support in the mission of the organization and with some growing pains we were able to start the Bridge Board. The ability to help create and form our Board was an incredible experience and one I am grateful for.
The obvious benefit of the Bridge Board is the ability to interact with and be close to the kids. While there are numerous occasions over the years where I have seen the impact the Clubs have on the kids two in particular stand out to me. The first came while refereeing a basketball game. Just the fact that the kids get an opportunity to play organized sports and learn to be a part of a team is beneficial but it was a moment after the game ended that stuck with me. A young man was very emotional after his team lost the game and didn’t have the best response. His coach pulled him aside and consoled him but also gave him some firm advice on how to better handle adversity. I didn’t think the kid paid any attention but later that season I saw the same team play again and in a similar losing situation this young man behaved in an entirely different manner. He was cheering for his teammates, playing hard and even though his team lost he handled it superbly. I can just picture that small bit of advice from the coach staying with him in school and later in his career as he faced difficult situations and handling them much better.
The second example comes from a kid at the Broadway Club. I met him for the first time when he was 8 years old. We were talking one afternoon as I helped him with his homework. He was so happy because he had just recently learned how to write his name. It’s such a simple task, but he was not able to do so up until then. He explained how one of the staff members had been working with him every day after school and he was now learning how to read. I sort of took it for granted that kids would learn those skills but without intervention from the Clubs I’m not sure he would have gotten to that point. The joy and excitement he showed is a moment I will never forget.
While these examples may be small and anecdotal I believe they perfectly encapsulate the impact the Boys and Girls Clubs have on the children of Cleveland. These were two young men but on a daily basis hundreds of kids have similar experiences. Providing a safe place, a hot meal, a sympathetic ear, tutoring, career advice and many more services gives these kids a chance. It’s a chance that was not afforded Peter and his siblings in Milwaukee and it is why I am incredibly grateful yet incredibly humbled every chance I get to work with such an amazing organization and Board. They truly are changing lives in our community one kid at a time.