story and photos by Debbie Miller and Nancy Peevy, special to The City Wire
Around 400 people dressed in leis, sundresses and shorts gathered Thursday night (July 31) to influence the futures of children in Benton County.
They were guests at the 20th annual Beach Party, a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of Benton County, a nonprofit organization that seeks to ensure a bright future for thousands of local children by providing programs in academics, health and character. The theme of the night was “Great Futures Start Here.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Benton County, which has locations in Bella Vista, Bentonville and Rogers, offers programs to give children the tools they need to help them make positive life choices. In 2013, the Benton County Clubs provided services to 3,769 children, with a daily average attendance of 602. Sixty-six percent of those children were boys.
A video aired during the Beach Party at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, featuring stories of different children and the impact that the Boys & Girls Club has had on their life. Guests learned that after attending the Boys & Girls Club, children have a higher commitment to school, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, do better in school, are more physically active and have healthier friendships than they did before attending, or compared to children who don’t attend the Club.
“As the mother of a 13- and 17-year-old, I know it takes a village to raise teenagers, and so I love to support the Boys & Girls Club. I’m honored to support it,” said Jody Pinson, Walmart vice president of merchandising, beauty and honorary chair for the event,
Paul Wilson, golf tournament co-chair, read a poem to the crowd, encouraging them to continue to support the organization and to “carry on.” Leah Golden, mother of children who are graduates of the Boys & Girls Club, told the crowd that her children, Victoria and Davis, struggled to find friends when they first moved here, but becoming involved in the Boys & Girls Club changed their lives.
“Both of my children have blossomed exponentially in that program. Personally it provided a base of friends, a home away from home and a place where they felt valued and loved. It was a place where they could fit in,” she said. “They have grown into awesome leaders.”
Jacob Hutson, Boys and Girls Club chief professional officer, said the event was expected to raise $35,000 from the night’s donations and silent auction, which would go towards supporting “programs focused on academic success, healthy lifestyles and character and leadership.” The 2014 annual revenue budget for the Boys and Girls Club is $2.1 million with $342,200 coming from fundraisers such as the Beach Party. The cost to provide all the programs for each attending child is well over $2,000 each year.
Guests enjoyed cocktails, a buffet and a silent auction as well as entertainment by Boom Kinetic. The Hershey Company provided a table full of different chocolates for guests to sample.
Beach Party attendees were encouraged to use social media to promote the event by using the hashtags #celebrategreatfutures and #bgcmobil1 when tweeting about the event.