Boys and Girls Club like extended family |

Boys and Girls Club like extended family

They are different ages, genders and they come from different backgrounds, but for three hours after school every day they relate like brothers and sisters. They are members of the Boys and Girls Club.

Pam Bakaly, said she tried hard to find after-school child care. After looking extensively, she discovered the BGC. Her son, Henry, who is a student at McPolin Elementary School, where the BGC meets, remains in school until his mother picks him up at 5:30 p.m. "He loves it," she said. "I can’t get him to leave." Bakaly likes to bring things to BGC to help them with their daily operations, and donate now and then.

The club has a mixture of work and play. Kids start the afternoon doing schoolwork during the "homework power hour," receiving help as they need it. Then they unwind, playing outside, weather permitting, or playing games like Dr. Dodge ball a variation of dodge ball, in the gym. Every afternoon, kids get a snack. Friday they get popcorn and a movie. With the sustenance of socialization, snacks and fun, no wonder sometimes they don’t want to leave this extended family.

Shanna Nielsen, the coordinator of the Park City BGC, has been at her job for two years. "Everybody’s welcome," she said. " BGC attracts disadvantaged kids to affluent kids. They want to come because it’s fun. They come here because they want to be here."

Kids from first to sixth-grade may join at a cost of $10 per year, January-December, although there are no summer programs yet.

The non-profit, world-wide organization survives on donations, grants and tuition fees and volunteer work. "I really like Park City, the community here. There is a lot of civic involvement," she said. But it is not only the adults who volunteer and donate to good causes.

Some of the kids turning 13 stay on to help the younger members. High school students also volunteer their time to mentor the kids. "I love having high school kids," Nielsen said. "They are enthusiastic, mature, helpful and get along great with the kids and staff."

Nielsen said the high school students also benefit. They can put their volunteer work on college applications and resumes.

Nielson said what’s most rewarding for her is seeing a positive change in kids over time. "Their language skills improve, their behavior improves and we see them mature." And she said that as they develop relationships with the staff and other club members, they feel like they belong.

After graduating from college with a degree in journalism, Nielson decided she wanted to work for a non-profit organization where she could help others. "I grew up in a small town with no services like this. "There were too many people having nowhere to go to socialize. I really do believe it does make a big difference."

"A lot of kids are in ESL classes, Nielsen said. Some kids barely speak English." She spoke of one shy Latino child who’s English improved exponentially because of the recreational setting of BGC acting as a supplement to his classes. The boy is much more social now.

Kids simply need to know that you care, Nielsen said. "W hen they know you care, they trust you."

For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake, which is the umbrella organization for the Park City branch, visit . For Park City BGC information, or to donate, call (435) 962-0336, or contact Shanna Nielsen at Donations may be earmarked for the Park City BGC.

Many of the kids are McPolin students. Nielsen said parents of McPolin students see the BGC in action, and that’s where they get a lot of enrollment. She also said she and her staff try to make it fun enough for kids that they want to come.

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