The future of the youth of Benton County is bright because of the work of the Boys and Girls Club of Benton County, Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., told a crowd of almost 700 people, made up of business and community leaders, government officials and families.
Foran spoke at the 25th annual Boys and Girls Club of Benton County (BGCBC) Youth of the Year Celebration at John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers on Thursday (March 31), which celebrated the accomplishments of the Club’s youth, helped the community understand what the BGCBC does, and raised money to support their efforts.
Organizers hoped to raise $250,000 from the event, which was hosted by Don Friesen, executive vice president, operations, Sam’s Club.
Foran said he became personally acquainted with the Boys and Girl Club of Benton County on a recent visit with children at the Boys and Girls Club’s McKinney Unit in Bentonville. He said when he meets associates in Walmart stores, he listens to them to hear what their store means to their community, and that is his favorite part of his job. So, he took the same approach at the Club. In his conversations with the children he listened to find out what the community at the Club means to them. Foran said he found hope and opportunity in the children’s responses.
“Hope is what gets us up in the morning. Opportunity is what we need to thrive. And we need both,” he said. “Kids learn (at the Boys and Girls Club) that they have the chance to open the door of opportunity to become the best version of themselves. That’s powerful.”
Watching the staff at the Club made him reflect on his own role as a parent and he charged the crowd to support the youth in their own lives. Foran emphasized this by concluding with a favorite quote of his by Nelson Mandela.
“A fundamental concern for others would go a long way in making the world a better place that we so passionately dreamed of,” he said.
Foran also congratulated 2016 Youth of the Year winner Morgan Russow, a senior at Bentonville High School, who also spoke during the evening. Foran told her and the other Youth of the Year finalists that he was inspired by what they had accomplished. The Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys and Girls Club member can achieve. The winner is chosen because they have overcome personal challenges and shown “outstanding leadership, academic excellence and dedication to making healthy life choices.”
“Morgan talks very honestly about dealing with self esteem issues… and how the club has helped her gain the poise and self-confidence that she knows that she can do anything she sets her mind to do,” said Betsy Reithemeyer, senior vice president, 8th and Walton and BGCBC board member.
The mission of the Boys and Girls Club of Benton County, which serves 3,700 children, offers a “safe, convenient and affordable place for children to learn, play, socialize and develop life skills that are essential to a successful and productive future.”
The BGCBC “serves school-aged children in the NWA area, providing out-of-school youth development and family support programs, which support in-school learning, promote health and wellness, develop honorable character and leadership and mediate emergent family needs,” according to their website.
Reithemeyer said it is important for the community to support the BGCBC.
“This is our future. We are there for kids, regardless of their circumstances, regardless of their financial ability to pay. We want them to have a safe and nurturing environment to go to after school and during the summer because we all know that the hours that kids get into the most trouble are right after school,” she said. “So, this gives them the peer role models, gives them a way to focus…, but it helps them really learn and appreciate and celebrate whoever they are.”