You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. –Jack London (modern translation)
When we land in a new country, we always spend day one doing reconnaissance. It is a way to ground ourselves and get our bearings before we set up camp, so to speak. As American citizens, landing in Washington was familiar in some ways but completely foreign in others. We are not sure why, as none of us had ever stepped foot in a Boys and Girls Club before, but day one in Washington was different. We were looking for the grocery store and we found a community that would last far beyond the summer.
The Club Teen Center in the Lake Hills area of Bellevue, Washington was an easy walk from the house we were renting. Our boys discovered they were the appropriate age to attend the free drop-in program whenever they felt inspired. The next day they made the decision to check things out.
What came next was a flood of new friends and experiences that paved the way for their re-entry into American life in the best, healthiest way possible. Seth gave them the VIP tour to orient them to the facility which included a recording studio and state of the art technology lab. They built bikes with Lance during the WheelLab and they were able to keep them when they were done. They ride those very bikes to school every day in Bellingham and tell the story of their bike building experience. They went on outings almost every day with Teacher Marcus to the Ballard Locks or swimming in Lake Washington. Teacher Jen took them to the All Together Skatepark in Seattle during the Chill Program for a week. They were able to shred with the pros every night and our oldest returned to celebrate his birthday and buy his first custom deck.
They eventually joined the Keystone Club for kids ages 14-18 that focuses heavily on community service, career preparation, and leadership development. Keystone gave them the opportunity to learn from an incredible man named Masao Yamada. Masao has more dot org’s in his signature than anyone I have ever met. What does that mean in terms of what he offers teens every day? He included the boys in fundraising for a college trip, an anti-bullying campaign, and the WheelLab. They were able to play, share meals, and do meaningful work with incredible adults supporting all kids who walk through The Club doors.
Our boys were only physically a part of The Club for just over a month and the impact was life-changing. They were able to work with Masao, a few weekends back, on a visit to Bellevue building hurricane relief kits for the East Coast. This weekend they are volunteering again at The Club’s Haunted House Fundraiser October 19th and 20th from 7:30-10:30 at 15228 Lake Hills Boulevard to benefit CRMO Research.
The Boys and Girls Club of America was started in 1860 as a Boys Club. It was created by three women to help boys who were needing a positive outlet for their abundant energy. It 1990 Congress amended and renewed the charter to include girls but the partnership was longstanding as the founders themselves were women. The mission is so closely aligned to our family values that the boys felt like it was an extension of our home life: “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
I am happy to report that since we have had this experience and started talking about it to others, the impact this organization had on our family is quite common around the country. While we couldn’t imagine other places having the caliber of people that run the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue, it turns out the Boys and Girls Club of America has an uncanny ability to attract remarkable humans across the country.
Just like when I wrote about the power of libraries and how Rotary changed my life, The Boys and Girls Club of America is now part of our story, our mission, and our future. We can’t wait to see what The Boy and Girls Club of Whatcom County has to offer, and we are honored to be just a small part of this world-class club.
As a nomadic family, living in 30 countries over the past five years, what our boys found at this club was their homecoming. Travel is about discovery, perspective, understanding, and community. Sometimes it just takes a walk around the block to change your view of the world.