This year's community impact report is infused with an even deeper sense of gratitude than usual. We completed 25 years of serving kids and their families in August of 2023. That is two and half decades of service to over 100,000 children and youth! While it feels great to have been a part of so many young lives, it feels just as wonderful to know that the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley's story is a story about what's possible when thousands of people come together under a common goal, the goal of ensuring our communities become great places for all kids to grow and thrive.
So, as you peruse the content of this report, please pat yourself on the back for how you have helped contribute to this humbling and marvelous journey. And please know how grateful we all are for your trust and belief in our people and our purpose – to help our communities’ young people thrive and reach their full potential.
When we first began, we did so with a relatively small and straightforward aspiration – we wanted to create a single place in the Fox Cities where kids could come and feel safe, connect to people who care, and gain access to life-changing opportunities. In many ways, that simple aspiration is the same today as it was back then. However, today, we have an even deeper appreciation for how essential this work is and will continue to be for our changing communities. As we look to our next 25 years, we know that every year, every month, and every day, there will be another way the Boys & Girls Club must show up for young people. We hope you'll continue to be our partner, and we hope you know how much your support means to our kids and our communities.
Empowering Kids to Thrive
When Boys & Girls Club staff noticed that Owen, a 9-year-old Club member, was experiencing some big feelings, they spoke with his mom, Kari. They told her about the Club's Youth and Family Counseling Services, which provides no-cost licensed counseling services for Club members and other young people throughout the Fox Cities. Owen soon began counseling to help him navigate through his big emotions. It didn’t take too much time for Owen to become more comfortable expressing himself. Now, he understands that counseling and the Club have helped him understand and work through his difficult emotions.
“I was just sad, and I was mad all the time. And I got into a lot of mischief. I gotta say the mischief didn't really go away, but most of my life was being sad and mad and now most of my life is being happy."
Hear more of Owen’s and Kari’s story by watching the video below.
Local STAR Scholar Earns National Arts Award
Each year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America sponsors a National Arts Contest for Club members nationwide. This year's themes gave youth the opportunity to look deep into themselves as they created art focused on setting expectations, being your best self, speaking up, youth voice & leadership, social justice through the arts, wellness inside and out, and personal and community well-being. Several of our Club members submitted their work for consideration and, through a generous partnership with the Trout Museum of Art, had the chance to see their work displayed in the community.
We were thrilled to receive the news earlier this year that Makayla, a Scholar in the Club's STAR program and student at Appleton West High School, WON FIRST PLACE at a national level for the mural she painted in the Social Justice through the Arts category. This mural is on display within the STAR space at Appleton West. Hear what Makayla shares about her inspiration behind this work of art!
Makayla, we're so proud of you! Thank you for sharing your creativity and passion with us!
Finding Her Beat
“‘Be responsible, be respectful, and be safe’ was a quote I grew up with at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley that will resonate with me for the rest of my life.”
Those words are how Rosanna Williams chose to kick off her speech before being named the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley's 2022-2023 Youth of the Year winner. Youth of the Year is a premier recognition program that celebrates the extraordinary achievements of youth served by the Club.
Rosanna, who graduated this past spring, was a STAR Scholar and had been a Club member for 11 years. “I have been involved with the BGC since first grade, and though my initial reason for joining was simply to have a place to meet new friends and be a kid, it became a sanctuary from the victimization of being bullied.”
For Rosanna, coming to the Club meant discovering a space where she could be herself—a space where she was surrounded by youth and caring staff who helped her feel accepted, safe, and respected. As the Youth of the Year winner, this senior at Appleton North High School shares that she will use her voice to "exude positive messages of hope, the desire to achieve anything, and that nothing is too big to imagine … and always loving yourself for who you are and embracing it as well.”
Rosanna’s experiences at the Club instilled in her a desire to help others learn to value themselves. She’s taken that desire and transformed it into action by volunteering with youth at the schools she attended. She mentors kids at Columbus Elementary, and she supports and encourages youth in the arts at Kaleidoscope Academy. Rosanna also helps students with disabilities at Appleton North High School.
“The Club has truly shaped and molded my vision of my future through many programs like ballet, instrument exploration, and singing, which were getaways from all the bad things happening in my life.”
Rosanna dreams of becoming an entertainer and cosmetologist and is already laying the foundation to make that future a reality. In her spare time, she performs musically as a solo entertainer and band member.
Throwing Summer Surprises
Hundreds of Club members patiently waited in the Boys & Girls Club of Appleton and Menasha gyms one late afternoon during the Club's summer programs for a special surprise that was about to become a definitive highlight from the past year. When Jordan Love, the Green Bay Packers' new starting quarterback, walked in, Club members couldn't believe it! Jordan first spent time with kids in Appleton, then traveled to do the same in Menasha, handing out a gift, shaking hands, giving fist bumps, and even throwing passes to some very excited young people. Jordan's visit was more than just a special appearance by a celebrity; it was an opportunity for our kids to feel special. There was certainly no shortage of smiles, giddy laughter, and happy sounds during these unforgettable visits.
Thank you to our friends at Bergstrom Automotive for making this remarkable opportunity possible for Club youth!
The Future Looks Bright for Youth in Manitowoc County
In 2022, the Boys & Girls Club of Manitowoc County opened its doors, a milestone 20 years in the making. In Manitowoc County, around 2,500 children live in households experiencing poverty, and within the Manitowoc Public School District, almost 500 kids are absent each day, to name a few. Longtime community members recognized that these kids needed a safe place where they could grow and thrive, and we’ve worked together to create that at the Boys & Girls Club of Manitowoc County, where kids develop relationships with caring mentors, access new opportunities, and begin to have hope for their futures. The 9,000-square-foot location has learning centers, an art room, STEM lab, game center, café, and gym. Last year alone, the Manitowoc Club served 145 youth and provided 5,941 nutritious meals and snacks to kids. This Club is already making a difference and continues to see strong growth and positive effects in young lives.
A Kaleidoscope of Enriching Experiences with Neighborhood Ed
Our connection with the Neighborhood Education Program at Columbus Elementary has been expanding the minds and perspectives of Club members! This innovative partnership has brought diverse and engaging learning opportunities to our Boys & Girls Club. Our Neighborhood Ed liaison invites local experts to share their knowledge each week, creating a unique and engaging learning environment. Earlier this year, our young members enjoyed story time with a former educator, got moving with captivating Polynesian dances (pictured here), and delved into the fascinating world of geology by uncovering the secrets behind different rock formations. Our members love the program, and cannot wait to explore even more unexpected adventures in their own backyard.
We’re All Better When We Are ALL Better - Trauma-Informed Intensive
Last November, our organization had the honor to host 11 Clubs throughout the Midwest for a 3-day training experience all centered around Trauma-Informed Practice.
Over the years, our local organization has made significant efforts to fold TI work into all areas of the Club. As a result, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America asked if we would lead the charge to support other Clubs’ learning. Staff across our Club locations rolled up their sleeves and leaned into this great opportunity. The TI Intensive is both a collaborative and highly interactive training experience. It focuses on expanding knowledge, honing skills, and integrating trauma-informed practice into every domain of the organization.
The Boys & Girls Club Movement serves approximately four million kids each year from various backgrounds, experiences, and conditions, many of which can create trauma. Trauma-informed practice recognizes the widespread impact and signs of trauma, actively resists re-traumatization, and walks alongside others' experiences. This human-centered approach informs everything about our organizational culture because we understand that every interaction has the potential to help heal when coming from a compassionate and intentional place. The way we relate to others and the environments we create affect people, so we strive to foster practices that help others feel seen, heard, capable, and fulfilled.
Participants who engaged with this experience shared:
"This was the most engaging, transformative, and exciting experience I've had. I am truly grateful."
"This process is difficult but being equipped with support and knowledge is invigorating moving forward."
98% of those who attended said they learned a great deal through the TI Intensive. We led another round of this training experience with even more Clubs in early November 2023.
Watch the video below to learn more about Trauma-Informed Care and this experience.
Video Game Expands Support for Grieving Youth
The Club's Center for Grieving Children has had the unique opportunity to help launch, participate in, and provide ongoing consultation in a pilot program that provides a new source of support for youth who are grieving the loss of a loved one, a video game called ExperienceCraft. The program came out of a partnership between Experience Camps, a non-profit that offers weeklong summer trips for youth who have experienced the loss of a loved one, and the online learning platform Connected Camps. The video game, which is geared toward 7-14-year-old youth, was built using a Minecraft server and enables kids to have fun and connect year-round. ExperienceCraft has leveled up the way the Club serves children working with grief by providing an alternate way to process emotions.
Our partnership with Experience Camps and Connected Camps continues with expanding a pilot program at the Menasha Boys & Girls Club. PeeLee Xiong, STEM Coordinator, has been leading an ExperienceCraft program on Friday afternoons for Club members who are grieving a loved one.
"I think ExperienceCraft is a great program because it meets kids where they're at. There are so many kids that love to play Minecraft so they get to play a game they love, and ExperienceCraft provides that safe place for them to meet and interact with other kids who all have experienced grief and loss in their lives. This has created a sense of community for some of our Club members and has allowed them to make new friends that they love to play and interact with on the server." -PeeLee, Boys & Girls Club of Menasha STEM Coordinator and staff leading pilot program
PeeLee and CGC Director, Erin Hollister, continue to promote ExperienceCraft to the youth they work with to explore creative ways to meet grieving Club member needs while ensuring it's safe and inclusive to everyone who is engaging with the game.
Check out the video below to learn more!
Changing the Narrative
At age 14, Evangelina Rattray has already discovered her passion. Evangelina is driven to create change. And while Evangelina is a 4.0 GPA student, athlete, writer, and activist, there's so much more to who she is. Evangelina beautifully shares she is "infinite." "By saying 'I am infinite', I am saying that I am anything and everything I want to be, I am all the positive affirmations and more. I am saying that I am boundless and unlimited."
These words are both insightful and powerful. They drive her forward in pursuit of her dreams. Evangelina, who participates in the Club's STAR initiative, recently earned the honor of the Club's 2022-2023 Junior Youth of the Year program title. This program seeks to develop young leaders to live and lead in a diverse, global, and integrated world.
In her Junior Youth of the Year speech, Evangelina shared that she has always loved reading but has recently also developed a love for writing. She acknowledged that women of color, especially outspoken ones, are not often portrayed in the stories she reads. "I feel like I cannot relate to many characters who are supposed to be relatable, as none are similar to me."
With that in mind, Evangelina has set her sights on changing the narrative. She's already completed her first novel and aspires to become a published author to write about what she feels is missing from the current books she reads. Evangelina plans to write books that focus on diversity and empowerment. "I want to write stories to empower those who don't have a voice and represent those who often are not depicted in literature."
Being a Scholar in the Club's STAR initiative has supported Evangelina and her dreams. The program has also taught her she can make a difference and dream big.
She shares, "From the moment I joined the STAR program, I felt I found a space that I could call my own. A space where I could unapologetically be myself."
Earlier this year, the Scholars on Target to Achieve Results (STAR) initiative celebrated its first five years! Since STAR began in 2018, this Club program has worked alongside nearly 800 Black Scholars in the Fox Cities to build equitable educational opportunities, strengthen self-advocacy and leadership skills, celebrate Black culture and identity, and center individual well-being. STAR works collaboratively with Appleton Area School District youth, schools, and the larger community to engage, educate, and ignite change. We're tremendously proud of the hard work of the STAR team and Scholars and genuinely thankful for all the supporters along the way.
Celebrating 25 Years of Supporting Great Futures!
Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate our 25th anniversary in August and those who have been a part of our story! Since first opening our doors in 1998, in a small corner of a vacant industrial building in downtown Appleton, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley has grown into 15 different locations and has served more than 100,000 children and youth. This level of impact is possible thanks to more than 6,000 donors who have believed in and partnered with us to help ensure our communities become great places for ALL kids to grow and thrive.
Enjoy these snapshots of the celebration that kicked off this milestone year!
Math Hoops Makes Learning Fun
Math Hoops is a new Club program that aims to help members improve social, academic, and employment skills. Kids both learn and practice math through a fast-paced board game and have been developing team-building skills as they draft NBA players for their team for the game! This program helps make learning fun for kids and is another way we are working to help youth build great futures!
Truancy Program Builds Momentum with Youth
Each year, our Truancy Reduction and Assessment Center works directly with area middle and high school youth to find ways to meet them where they're at and help address the obstacles and challenges they face regarding school.
The number of youth that this program supports has grown significantly over the last few years. During the 2022-2023 school year, the TRAC program served 284 students through case management--that’s up more than 100 youth from the 2020-2021 school year.
In response to the challenges youth face, TRAC has adapted its approach this past school year. Instead of starting with a blank slate and waiting for kids to be referred to TRAC as the year went on, case managers immediately began working with youth they had supported the previous year. Because of this change, the team can build even stronger relationships with the kids they serve and provide them with extra support to succeed.
We're thrilled to share that 95% of youth who work with TRAC Case Managers report progress toward their goals.
TRAC Director Dustin Thew shares, "When you have that relationship with the student — and it's a positive one — it's a lot easier for them to say, 'I remember you, I trust you.'"
To learn more about how our area is working to address truancy, click the button below featuring a story from The Post-Crescent.
Service to Youth Award Winner Focuses on Mission-Driven Data
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley have and always will be mission-driven and focused on continuously improving and striving to provide kids with an Optimal Club Experience. When Marissa Burbach joined the organization nearly six years ago, she started to help us drive our work forward in significant ways through data. Marissa was most recently honored for her work by receiving our 2022 Service to Youth Award. As the Club's former Data Analyst and now as the Director of Continuous Improvement, Marissa is helping us to inform our decision-making and build stronger Clubs, programs, and experiences for the youth and families we serve. We're so proud of all the ways Marissa elevates our work!