Boys & Girls Club more than just play

Staff proud of skills kids learn after school
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
-A +A
When you think about asking kids to do homework, you probably expect to hear a few groans. That’s not the case at the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. “I really like going to the club because I do my homework,” said club member Drake Bender. Drake, 8, a second-grader at Skyridge School, added a few other things he likes to do at the club. “I like going to the science guy and dodge ball,” Drake said. That kind of variety in activities is exactly what Boys & Girls staff like to see. “Everything we do is about youth development,” said Randy Tooker, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. In recognition of the club’s hard work and success in creating a fun place for kids to spend their time after school, they are this year’s recipient of the Community First Award. The award, which will be given at the annual State of the Community Dinner April 15, recognizes a person, business or organization for consistently demonstrating community service and spirit over an extended period of time. The recipient receives a $1,500 check to be used either for the nonprofit recognized with the award or the individual awardee’s charity of choice. Mark Lund, president and CEO of Community 1st Bank in Auburn, said the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn was selected this year because of the structure and safe haven the club provides for youth. Lund has also served on the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn board for the past four years and said he’s continuously impressed by their work. “These kids are not involved in alcohol or drugs and have grades that are improving,” Lund said. “The good that it does in the community, I don’t think you can measure it. It’s just huge.” Tooker said the award means a lot to the club because the community has been a huge help in the growth of the organization, which includes three clubs in Auburn. One club is Downtown, another is located at Rock Creek School and the third meets at E.V. Cain Middle School. “We really impress on the kids that it’s the community who makes this possible for them,” Tooker said. On a small scale, the kids give back by picking up trash when they take “field trips” through town. On a larger scale, Tooker said staff at the club strive to teach kids how to be better citizens. Ralph Lewis, site director at the Mullin and McAdams clubhouse in Downtown Auburn, said he likes that the club focuses on teaching students rather than just giving them a place to play. That starts every afternoon with an hour of homework during “Power Hour” and continues from there. “We just don’t do academics,” Lewis said. “We teach cooking, we teach music, we teach art, and we teach sports. They’re learning something. It’s not daycare. This is interactive activity for kids.” That kind of thinking has taught Drake how to make paper racecars using paper, tape and straw. Skylyn Garcia said playing basketball, softball and dodge ball are her favorite activities at the club. The 9-year-old Skyridge third grader said she likes to read, too. Ryan Wanner, 8, a second-grade student at Skyridge, said he loves to play dodge ball on Fridays. “It gets my arm sore,” Ryan said. “I like throwing with my right arm. My left arm stinks.” Skylyn, Drake and Ryan also perked up at the mention of the Throw Down cooking challenge every Thursday. Kids compete against each other to make dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya. Tooker said he’s grateful for the community’s help in sustaining the organization and says he’s already had success stories of former club members going on to college or graduating from high school and finding jobs. “Every day we have over 200 kids involved in positive activities at the club, learning to be good citizens,” Tooker said. “Those kids are doing productive things for the community and I would think they’ll do that for the rest of their lives.” Reach Jenifer Gee at --------------------------- Five things you didn’t know about the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn 1. Club members adopted an 8-foot Burmese python at a local reptile house and named it Lexie 2. Kids take Amgen-related cooking classes. Recently they made healthy muffins. 3. More than 200 Boys & Girls Club of Auburn members recently participated in a national attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most jumping jacks done at one time 4. The club just added a donated Jeep to its “wilderness” playground 5. During the summer, club members take trips to Tango frozen yogurt and pick up trash as they walk down Lincoln Way ------------------------------------ State of the Commmunity Dinner When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 15 Where: Sierra Building at the Gold Country Fairgrounds Cost: $37.50 Reservations: Call the Auburn Chamber of Commerce at (530) 885-5616, ext. 223 The Journal is running a series of profiles on the State of the Community winners daily through April 15. To read all the stories in this series, visit