The Silver Lining
Lilly was seven years old and living at Harbor House with her mother and sister. She had experienced more life-altering changes than most children ever do and that any child ever should. So on top of everything else, when her mom told her she would have to go to the Boys & Girls Club, she didn't want to go. She wanted to stay by her mother's side. But what started out as another unsettling change in Lilly’s life, ultimately became "...the silver lining in a very rough time.” One that not only helped Lilly cope, but also provided Lilly's mom with the time she needed to start rebuilding their lives.
"The Boys & Girls Club can be the silver lining in a very rough time for children."
Less than a year after joining the Club, life handed Lilly another life-altering, devastating blow. Her mother, her protector and her inspiration, was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and passed away only six months later. Lilly’s world was shattered, again.
When Lilly reflects on this time of her life, she shares,"the Boys & Girls Club offered me a distraction from my home life and gave me a sense of community. The staff cared about all of us and the programs the Boys & Girls Club offered, led me to become interested in more and gave me the confidence to join extracurricular activities in high school."
Despite the many challenges Lilly faced in her young life, she flourished. Her will to succeed, her mother's never-ending inspiration, along with support of the people who make the Boys & Girls Club possible and others helped Lilly transform her life. Lilly is now a first generation college student at Columbia University in New York! She received a full scholarship and is enrolled in Columbia's pre-med program.
In Lilly's words "This past year I worked at a middle school Boys & Girls Club and couldn't help but notice the kids who stay until we close nearly every day, sometimes having to be told its time to go now, and then walk home. I remember being that kid, and find myself grateful, thinking about the difference the Boys & Girls Club has made for me and others alike. There are times when my mom and I needed the Boys & Girls Club in my life, and times when I chose the Boys & Girls Club because of the sense of belonging it fostered. This type of atmosphere that allows children like me to reach their full potential manifests into big things. The people who make this possible play an important role in helping these children succeed. Thank you for helping make my future possible and for all your contributions to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley."
Paying it forward
Four years ago, Will was fighting, getting into trouble with the law, and struggling academically. Then the Boys & Girls Club of Menasha opened and Will became a member. Over the course of his four years with the Club, Will has transformed himself and in doing so has also become a role model to many of the Club's younger children.
The Club gave him the chance to see his friends more often, gave him an escape, and helped him learn how to make better choices and stay out of trouble. Will's grades have improved dramatically and he continues to strive to do even better.
The Club was Will's safe haven during a very rough time in his life. It was the one place where he could be himself and feel supported. Having a place where everyone was willing to help propelled him out of a low point of his life.
“When I went to Club, I felt like I was able to breathe again,” Will stated.
Will is living proof of the impact that the Club can have on a person. These days he spends his time paying it forward as both a basketball team coach and mentor to children at the Club. “I love playing basketball and working with kids,” Will stated. The Boys & Girls Club of Menasha has enabled Will to mature and helped shape him into the young man he is today. “The Boys & Girls Club has made me want to help more kids in my community.”
His time spent at the Club made a significant positive impact on the trajectory of Will’s life. As Will says, “I owe my personal and educational growth to the Boys & Girls Club.”
Persistence pays off
Most of us would probably admit that we do not like asking for help. Ira was no different, but from the moment he met his STAR mentor Sherman, Ira recalls “He really didn’t give me a choice.” Sherman was determined to help him.
When Ira joined the STAR program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley in the spring of 2018, he was reluctant to get involved.
Sherman’s persistence paid off and Ira found the program to be a great outlet and support for him, "STAR has helped me process how I feel.”
Sherman helped Ira work through his emotions and taught him techniques to manage his feelings and behavior more effectively.
Ira went through a point in his life where he struggled with his anger and in those moments of fight or flight, he often chose to fight. “I was exposed to a hard life at a young age,” Ira stated.
Ira has had his share of ups and downs, but having Sherman there to push him to be the best version of himself is helping. Ira and his teachers have seen great improvements in his schoolwork. Not only that, but Ira now actively reaches out for help when he needs it. Having a mentor who is there to lift you up when you are down, one who truly believes in you, and pushes you to focus on the brighter things in life, gave Ira the strength and determination he needed to succeed. “Sherman is someone I can confide in, trust, and is someone that completely wants to help,” Ira notes.
Ira, who is a junior at Appleton West, hopes to attend MIT after high school to pursue degrees in Architecture and Electrical Engineering. He would like to design products that positively impact people’s lives. His biggest motivator to work hard and succeed is to help his family.
Sometimes all it takes is one person who relentlessly believes in the promise of who someone can become, to be the difference that opens up the door to their future.
Great Futures 2020
Every Child Deserves an Equal Chance to Reach Their Full Potential
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley serves an estimated 1 out of every 4 children living in low-income households in the Fox Cities, but we need to do more. There are now 55% more low-income children living in the Fox Cities than there were 12 years ago and far too many area young people are not prepared for future success in life.
We’ve launched an ambitious agenda to make an even larger difference in our community’s future called Great Futures 2020. Our goal is to increase from 1,300 to 1,700 the number of young people we serve every day. Our plan is to raise $9.875MM for these three core objectives.