Business leaders raise money, awareness for Boys and Girls Club of Benton County

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 592 views 

Northwest Arkansas leaders such as J.B. Hunt, Sam Walton, Alice Walton, Don Tyson and Pauline Whitaker built a strong foundation of leadership and philanthropy for the region, Larry Young, CEO of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, told a crowd of about 800 on Thursday evening (March 30).

“Northwest Arkansas is a place where giving back is part of the fabric of your community,” he said.

Young spoke at the 26th annual Boys and Girls Club of Benton County (BGCBC) Youth of the Year Celebration at John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, which helped raise awareness for the Club and celebrated accomplishments of the Club’s youth. The evening was hosted by Andy Barron, executive vice president for softlines and general merchandise, Walmart U.S., and Charles Redfield, executive vice president for food, Walmart U.S.

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.

Young shared his story of being a “club” kid since 1959 when he attended the Boys Club in Springfield, Mo. He said his time there shaped him into the man he is today, and he cited three life lessons that he learned.

“First, I learned that I didn’t have to be a product of my environment,” Young said. “There’s a reason I’m a believer in the American dream and it’s because I’m proof.”
He said his world as a child was mostly back-breaking work on his father’s farm, but the Club opened a world of possibilities for him.

Fernanda Alcantara, Boys and Girls Club of Benton County 2017 Youth of the Year winner, speaks to the crowd. Alcantara also won the state title.

“Without the Club, I might never have recognized the possibilities that were beyond those wooden fences. The Club widened my perspective, introduced me to great friends and gave me role models to inspired me to do more and to want more for myself,” Young said.

Second, Young said the Club taught him to “swing for the fences and punch above my weight.”

Today the Club emphasizes academic excellence, character, citizenship and a healthy lifestyle. But back in the 1950s, Young said, the stress was on “the three B’s – basketball, boxing and billiards.”

“Basketball taught me drive, billiards taught me strategy and boxing taught me the importance of taking risk, no matter the size or skill of my opponent,” Young said. “All these activities helped me build character, confidence and leadership. They also helped me decide for myself what I could achieve, regardless of what others thought I was capable of.”

Young used this life lesson when Dr Pepper Snapple Group spun off Cadbury Schweppes during the economic decline in 2008.

“Back then the naysayers said we didn’t stand a chance. They thought we’d be annihilated. Lots of companies went under. Many thought we would, as well,” Young said. “But we didn’t go to survive. We went to thrive. That’s punching above your weight.”

Young said the final thing the Club taught him was the importance of paying it forward.

“It has been five decades since I first stepped into that Boys Club, but I remember the people who gave their time to me like it was yesterday,” Young said.

He told of three men who taught him lessons on being a great team manager, looking for opportunities in the ring and helping him see the big picture beyond the end of a cue stick.

“From them I learned that you build your future with your hands, your mind and your heart,” Young said. “These three men, each of whom had their own lives, families and careers, reached a hand back to me to propel me forward. The value of that is beyond measure and something I’m grateful for every single day.”

Young then introduced Fernanda Alcantara, the Boys and Girls Club of Benton County 2017 Youth of the Year and winner of the 2017 Arkansas State title. 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.”

Alcantara told the audience of moving to the United States from Mexico when she was four years old and of the personal and financial struggles her family experienced as a result of her father leaving the family. She said the Club became her safe haven throughout her childhood.

“While my dad’s absence left me feeling unwanted, the Club opened up their doors, ears and their hearts for me,” Alcantara said. “They’ve given me the confidence to succeed as the leader I am today.”

Alcantara is Keystone president, student body president, and in the National Honor Society. She plans on becoming a trauma surgeon in order to work with Doctors Without Borders. She would also like to work for minorities in the political arena. Alcantara said she sees the youth of America persevering the same way she has and believes they will also succeed.

“Our background does not determine where we end up,” Alcantara said. “Only you determine that. You get to write your own story. We are not our past. We are not the color of our skin. We are not our politics. We are not a test score. We are potential, waiting to be unleashed,” she said.