Lana and Rich, both working parents, came to the Boys & Girls Club looking for a place where their daughter, Samie, could feel at home. Having been cared for by her grandfather until he got sick, Samie had trouble fitting in at other daycare centers and neighbors’ homes. At the Club she felt at home. According to Rich, “She just took to it, it was a major relief.” Samie’s grandfather, who cared for her while her parents were at work was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a year ago. Lana and Rich knew Samie was struggling with the loss and wanted to find something that felt like home for her. “We were kind of stressed about what we were going to do because she was having a really hard time adjusting.”
They had heard about the Boys & Girls Club years before through another parent at Samie’s preschool and decided to give it a try. “They made a special effort when she came in to feel welcome and normal and just part of the group. I think it made all the difference in the world,” Lana said of the Club staff. They particularly enjoyed the change of environment the Club offered, her previous daycare center was at the school where she remained all day until her parents picked her up in the evening. The fact that the Boys & Girls Club is its own Club with a variety of rooms and activities made a huge difference for Samie.
Lana and Rich are excited about how fun the place is; how Samie, being an only child, gets to interact with other kids and enjoy social activity. Lana recalls how “any time before the Club, if I was going to work from home or do something from home she would always make an excuse to stay home with me and since the Boys & Girls Club I’ll ask her ‘do you want me to drop you off at the Club’ and most of the time she picks the Club.”
The fact that many of the kids come from families where both parents work makes it easier for Samie to relate to them. Rich and Lana enjoy the freedom parents have when taking their kids there. “The benefit of the Club is you’re not at one house all day. You can drop them off as early as you want and pick them up when you want.”
The benefits the Club provides are significant for Lana and Rich. It was an instant relief for them knowing their child was in a safe but fun place where she could feel comfortable. Lana and Rich encounter many benefits they hadn’t anticipated. “The one benefit that I really didn’t expect but it happened almost immediately was her confidence level went through the roof,” says Lana. Samie was a shy, introverted young girl. She opened up at the Club and was able to build her confidence. Lana attributes this to the staff and the environment at the Club. The Club encourages kids to interact with one another. “The only way to have fun is to develop friendships and try new things with new kids.” The variety of kids at the Club has helped some become more outgoing and accepting of kids from different backgrounds and situations. “I think it has made her a lot more well-rounded than we could have done, as an only child whose parents are both working.” Lana and Rich have also seen a dramatic improvement in Samie’s performance in school. Samie credits the Club’s Power Hour for helping her do better in school.
The Club has taught their daughter and other Club members many intangible values. Teens, many of whom have grown up in the Club, have their own separate teen room but they also help out the younger members by reading with them or helping them with their homework during Power Hour. The younger kids look up to the teens as positive role models when they work in the Club as Junior Staff or volunteer in the gym. “The Club mixes the teens and younger kids in a really healthy way that gives the younger kids something to strive for.”
The Club has taught Samie the importance of accepting others for who they are and has exposed her to kids from diverse backgrounds. Lana is happy the Club teaches that, “not everybody comes from the same background, family experiences and social economic background and that it’s important to treat everybody fairly and the same. There is an attitude of sharing at the Club, and it’s not the haves and the have-nots, it levels the playing field for the kids.”
When asked what she wishes others knew about the Club, Lana says, “I wish that people knew more about the variety of activities, that there is something that every kid would enjoy, it doesn’t matter what your background is or what your interests are you are going to find something your kids will love.”