Listening to the young man’s story, I’m amazed. Just a few miles from where my family and I have lived for the past sixteen years, Todd has grown up. We seem to be from different planets.
The story of the family that my wife and I have raised is a functional, if imperfect, one, filled with things like family vacations, school concerts, braces and dating, high school and college graduations, and so far, one wedding. It’s been a happy life.
But in New Richmond, the story of seventeen year old Todd, the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County’s Youth of the Year, has been very different. His father abandoned the family when Todd was young. His mother got involved in using and selling drugs. Every member of his extended family was on public assistance and none finished high school.
In Todd’s early years, he was on the same grim path of dysfunctionality. But today, Todd works for a local bank and will begin his college career at the University of Cincinnati this fall. He graduated from New Richmond High School, one year ahead of schedule.
Todd is an extraordinary person. But this is no “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” story. Have you ever tried to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps? It can’t be done.
Todd has, of course, worked to get to a place that none of his family members has reached. Only he could study and pass the tests that have led to early graduation. Only he could decide to forego the temptation of following the paths of least resistance: drug use, reliance on public assistance, cruising through school and life, skirmishing with the law.
But the truth is, Todd was helped to make the positive decisions he’s made for his life. Much of that help came from the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County.
Every day of the school year and in special summer programs, the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County, with one club in New Richmond and another in Amelia, plants the seeds of possibilities and hope in the lives of hundreds of Clermont County youths.
Members, aged six to eighteen, gather after school until 7:00 PM each school day. There, they get homework help. They participate in structured activities and they get the attention of caring adults of character.
Some club members participate in special programs offered by the clubs. For Todd, one called Passport to Manhood, which fosters character development in young men, proved life-changing.
The Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County isn’t a government agency. It exists because ordinary people like you see how important it is.
Through the club, kids are taken off the streets and out of often-empty homes during those hours of the day when, statistics show, they’re most likely to get into trouble, become pregnant, commit a violent crime, be subjected to sexual predators, or become victimized by violence.
During those same hours, between 3 and 7 PM, they’re also given help with their schoolwork and more importantly, hope and the tools of self-discipline.
I wish that every adult in Clermont County could see what happens at the clubs. They would see, as the teachers of Boys and Girls Club members and the officials of our Clermont County juvenile court system have seen, that young lives and communities are being changed for the better. If you did see this, the Boys and Girls Club would quickly achieve its dream of being in every community in our county.
If you’d like to know more about the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County, why not contact their office at 553-0188? They’d be happy to provide information or take you on a tour.
But if you’re already convinced, as I am, that you want to be part of this organization’s work, consider making a contribution to the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County every year. Your annual gift of a $1000, $500, $100, or whatever you can afford, will help more Todds (and Teresas) see the possibilities for their lives. It just takes one person like you to make a difference in the lives of young people like Todd. Why not be that one person?
[This is a column I've just submitted to the Press Community newspapers, for whom I've been writing pieces since 1996.]
[If you live in or near Clermont County, you can send contributions to the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County, 212 Market Street, New Richmond, Ohio 45157.]
[There are also Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the United States and on US military bases throughout the world. Look into contributing to the clubs in your community. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a tremendous movement, wothy of your support!]