The Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club of America hosted another memorable evening at their annual Great Futures Gala on November 7, 2017. The Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom was packed with hundreds of supporters, Boys & Girls Club teachers, Club Kids and their parents, and Boys & Girls Club alumni.
It was a fun-filled night of giving, emceed by comedian and actor JB Smoove. A former Club Kid himself, Smoove spoke about how the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon, New York was his safe haven as a young teen, and how special it is for him to now be able to give back to an organization so influential to his upbringing. He even kicked off the evening’s fundraising by writing a check for $1,000.00 right on stage.
What struck me most about the night was the musical thread throughout the evening… Club Kids from Huntington Valley took the stage with an incredible tap dancing number, and then several club kids sang a moving rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” It was a poignant musical tribute because interlaced between each chorus, were powerful speeches delivered by various Club Kids and teachers positioned all around the ballroom. Their stories echoed the sentiments of hope, individuality, optimism, and strength that were conveyed in the heartfelt cover performance.
After NFL tight end and current FOX Sports Analyst Tony Gonzalez spoke of his days as a Club Kid, esteemed rock drummer Jim Keltner and Boys & Girls Club alum took the stage to speak about how his formative years as a Club Kid led him to pursue his career as a professional musician. He attributed his success as a legendary rock drummer to the early mentorship of his music teacher at Boys & Girls Club when he first moved to Los Angeles as a young teenager. The evening culminated with yet another performance that left audiences touched… This time, a group of Club Kids performed a song from “Wicked” – and it was a truly special moment to see children from diverse backgrounds and from many different clubs across the U.S. come together to deliver this beautiful song.
I got to speak one-on-one with a couple teachers who volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, Jose Sanchez and Valentin Cuellar. They told me about the music program there at BGCV, with a state-of-the-art recording facility and programming that includes hands-on workshops in recording, engineering, production, and songwriting. It’s no wonder that the Club Kids performed as professionally as they did – Club Kids have access to incredible training facilities where their natural talents are encouraged and developed.
Sanchez and Cuellar also gave me insight into their lives as teachers at BGCV. Over the course of ten years as teachers there, they have watched their own Club Kids go through the program as students and then return as teacher colleagues. And most gratifying, they said, was when their alumni students keep them updated as they complete college and fulfill their degrees. It was obvious that the gift goes two ways – Boys & Girls Club teachers like Sanchez and Cuellar offer their students mentorship, guidance, and wisdom – while the students they teach offer friendship and gratitude that lasts beyond their years as Club Kids.
There are currently 4,300 Clubs serving 4 million young people every year throughout the U.S. For more than 150 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America has offered a safe place for children and teens to learn, study, and grow into curious, intelligent students and productive, responsible, and caring citizens. Learn more at bgca.org/facebook, bgca.org/twitter, and visit www.bcga.org.