ALPENA - The Alpena Boys and Girls Club offers children more than a place to shoot a game of pool or play dodgeball in the gym. It offers a wide variety of educational and social programs that benefit them as they move toward adulthood.
With those offerings, comes a cost however, and the club relies heavily on the community to help support it. On May 9 the club will host its largest fundraiser of the year, the 88th Annual Spring Celebration Dinner Auction. The money raised from the event helps to ensure members of the club, as well as the staff, have the proper tools and programs to continue to develop.
Executive Director Brad Somers said there is more to the club than kids hanging out and playing. He said it's a place that offers a stable and safe environment where kids can learn while having fun. Somers said the club is a place he wants the children to feel comfortable at and proud of.
"I think many people think the kids come here, grab a pool stick and play pool for three hours. That really isn't the case," Somers said. "We have an educational component to everything we do. We have high-yielding learning programs, but with those come an expense. To provide the best experience and most educational experience, we need operating money. The spring celebration helps accomplish our goals and offer our programs."
The club offers arts and crafts, tutoring, and meals for the kids while they are at the club. Kids are encouraged to volunteer in the community and the older club members often mentor the younger ones. The club hosts field trips to various locations in Northeast Michigan to educate the kids on local culture, business and history.
Somers said the staff at the club is there to monitor the kids, but more importantly be role models and to lend an ear when needed. He said he wants all the members to feel they belong while at the club.
"This club is the kids' and when they walk in here I want them to be proud of it," Somers said. "We are just lucky enough to work here and help provide for them, but this is the kids' club. If a kid or parent walks in here and they are not proud of it or the things they are doing, that is not a good experience for them and that's not good."
The event is being held at the APlex and will feature gourmet hors d'oeuvres and cocktails included with the $100 ticket. Each ticket is for a couple and enters people into a drawing for cash. There also will be a silent auction that will feature spring-related items. Somers said the event is very popular and the Alpena community always has been supportive of the club. He said he expects this year's celebration/fundraiser to be one of the largest.
"I'm always humbled in this position, to be part of a community that supports the kids the way Alpena does," Somers said. "The exposure of the club is also an important part of the fundraiser as well because it gets our name out there and shows people what we offer kids and what we do on a day to day basis. They see what we can provide them in terms of resources and educational opportunities and socialization. The club helps keep kids out of trouble and to do something positive, instead of going after the negative. We work our hardest to help provide kids with leadership skills, but more importantly just to be kids and have fun."
Tickets are on sale now and the early bird period runs until Tuesday. If a ticket is purchased before Wednesday, the purchaser has an opportunity to win a second ticket. It also allows them a second entry in to the cash drawing at the party. Tickets can be obtained at the club and Somers said he will happily deliver them if necessary.
"I have no problem jumping in the car and dropping a ticket or tickets off somewhere," Somers said. "This is an important event and if someone needs tickets and can't make it to the club to pick them up I'll drop them off for them."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.