Northeast Times

In this club, they are all winners

Hail­ing from across the globe, thir­teen win­ners of a Boys & Girls Club con­test vis­ited the Brides­burg Boys & Girls Club last week. What did they all have in com­mon? Their love for the or­gan­iz­a­tion it­self.

On Tues­day, Ju­ly 31, The Brides­burg Boys & Girls Club was packed with young people do­ing what they do best — hanging out, and be­ing kids.

They joked about “Philly ac­cents” over famed loc­al fare like cheesesteaks and Tastykakes, and shared their ex­per­i­ences about be­ing in the club, which sup­ports youth world­wide.

The even­ing was a chance for Brides­burg Boys & Girls Club mem­bers to meet oth­er kids with the club in com­mon. Thir­teen young people from across the coun­try, as well as Ja­pan and Ger­many, vis­ited the Brides­burg club as part of their weeklong trip through Phil­adelphia.

Aged 6 to 18, the 13 vis­it­ing youth were cel­eb­rat­ing their wins in the club’s Di­git­al Arts Con­test. Club tech­no­logy pro­grams across the coun­try and oth­er na­tions gave them a chance to show­case their di­git­al ex­pert­ise, and the Brides­burg club is now ramp­ing up its own di­git­al tech­no­logy pro­grams.

The win­ners had been honored the night be­fore at Com­cast’s city headquar­ters, and had been presen­ted with prizes such as di­git­al cam­er­as and laptops to help fur­ther their tech­no­lo­gic­al am­bi­tions.

At the Brides­burg club, though, no one’s mind seemed to be on glory or prizes.

“To­night is just a time for them to come and be kids,” said Amy Lam­parter, as­sist­ant dir­ect­or of pub­lic re­la­tions for the Boys & Girls Club of Amer­ica.

Mare Toner, unit dir­ect­or for the Brides­burg Boys & Girls Club, said 15 mem­bers of the loc­al club were in­vited to meet the 13 win­ners. Those 15 were mem­bers of the club’s lead­er­ship and com­munity ser­vice-fo­cused “Key­stone” group, as well as ju­ni­or staff mem­bers and teen mem­bers.

Toner said the Brides­burg club is just start­ing up its Tech Pro­gram, which will in­volve ro­bot­ics, clay­ma­tion, mu­sic tech­no­logy and pho­to­graphy to per­haps al­low Brides­burg youth to cre­ate pro­jects sim­il­ar to the win­ners’.

“I’m happy this will give them ‘oomph,’” Toner said. “We’re on our way.”

She said such pro­grams at the Brides­burg club give loc­al youth an out­let and “a home away from home.”

“It’s not the form­al set­ting of school,” Toner said. “It’s more of a fam­ily set­ting. They come here not to be judged, but to be who they are.”

Vis­it­ing Con­test win­ners Timothy Bish­op, 18, and Al­lie De­G­root, 15, said their trip to the Brides­burg club was a chance to in­spire loc­al mem­bers.

Bish­op, who now lives in Aus­tin, Texas, was awar­ded for his mu­sic pro­duc­tion abil­it­ies while liv­ing in Ger­many. His win­ning entry was an ori­gin­al mu­sic­al track he had writ­ten, mixed and mastered.

He said the Brides­burg kids were very friendly and talk­at­ive, and he felt the meet­ing was in­spir­a­tion­al.

“With us com­ing here and meet­ing with kids, they’re get­ting the idea that ‘you can do it too,’” he said. “Every­one clicked. We all came here with same vis­ion and same goal: to learn more about each oth­er, to meet people to help them ex­cel.”

De­G­root, of Wis­con­sin, won for her cre­ation of a mu­sic video about ac­cept­ance. As a gay teen who said she struggles with a learn­ing dis­ab­il­ity and a stut­ter, she said she wanted to cre­ate a video that proves “people like me are just as nor­mal.”

Call­ing Phil­adelphia “mind-blow­ing” and “amaz­ing,” she said the Boys & Girls Club ex­per­i­ence is a true con­fid­ence-build­er.

“I think it’s awe­some we can tell them [Brides­burg club mem­bers] stor­ies about our clubs,” she said. “All the sup­port and love these build­ings give you is spec­tac­u­lar.”

Jes­sica Kaupp, 17, a mem­ber of the Brides­burg Boys & Girls Club for 14 years and a stu­dent at Little Flower Cath­ol­ic High School, said the win­ners’ vis­it made her feel like the Brides­burg club was be­ing re­cog­nized as something spe­cial.

“I’m really ex­cited, be­cause we’re mov­ing up in the world,” she said.

She said in speak­ing to the vis­it­ing club mem­bers, the even­ing be­came a two-way learn­ing ex­per­i­ence.

“We’re teach­ing them about stuff,” she said, adding that each Boys & Girls Club has dif­fer­ent activ­it­ies, and that fact was a sig­ni­fic­ant talk­ing point that night.

Kaupp said the Brides­burg Boys & Girls club is a second home.

“It’s a place to es­cape,” she said. “I’ve been here my whole life. I really love my neigh­bor­hood.”

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113, or at mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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