Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: ‘Olympic Games’ Are On at Culmore Boys & Girls Club

By Leslie Atkins

Safety, service and success are important to a community’s well-being. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Region, has many success stories to share. One story includes the opening of our Summer Camp for 2021. Our Culmore Club in Falls Church is offering an “Olympic Games” themed camp from June 28 through Aug. 20 for kids from grades K-9.

This will be an amazing opportunity for local kids, especially after the hardships of the past year. Imagine how much our youth will benefit from activities like swimming, park picnics, cooking, fitness, yoga and weekly competitions in the spirit of the Olympics. Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Camps are well known for providing safe, healthy and enriching programs for kids in our communities who need it most.

The Culmore Club has served the Falls Church community for over 20 years. It is located at the ground level inside the Culmore Church on Charles Street. The Club provides transportation to the clubhouse during the academic year from nearby schools. The Club is dedicated to providing a safe place where local community youth can grow and learn while having fun.

Despite its decades of service in the U.S., many aren’t aware of the breadth of programs offered by Boys & Girls Clubs, nor the millions of young people whose lives have been changed for the better. Like most organizations, Boys & Girls Clubs had to adapt quickly at the onset of the pandemic.

We launched “Clubhouse at Your House” to provide our kids with a virtual Club experience, allowing them to remain connected to the staff and programs they had come to rely on and enjoy.

Our staff kept in touch with Club families and with the support of generous sponsors we were able to provide power snacks, lunches and special holiday meals for pick-up by the kids and their families.

As we began to reopen with new safety protocols in place, access to after school computer labs and in-person activities helped to restore a sense of normalcy.

We recently celebrated the graduations of our high school seniors. In short, our Clubs take care of our kids like family, because we are family.

We are proud of the impact our Clubs have had in Fairfax County filling the gap between school and home. We offer “Power Hour” to help with homework; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs to develop critical thinking; and Diplomas 2 Degrees to prepare for success beyond high school. Programs like these are offered after school as well as during our Summer Camps.

As a result, 98 percent of our teens expect to graduate from high school and 94 percent expect to complete some post-secondary education! Boys & Girls Clubs helps to develop leadership skills through “Torch” and “Keystone Clubs” and by providing volunteer opportunities for members within the community. As a result, 82 percent of our teens volunteer in their communities at least once per year and 61 percent volunteer at least once per month!

Programs including “Passport to Manhood” and “SMART Girls’’ encourage positive relationships and good decision-making, while sports leagues and daily fitness challenges promote physical activity.

In short, Academic Success, Good Character, Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles are Boys & Girls pillars of success that are reinforced and celebrated for all of our Club kids!

In addition to Summer Camp, we are excited to kick off our newest mentoring program in August. The “Great Big Kid” Campaign will pair six mentors with designated Club youth across our Clubs to serve as role models. The mentors will support their mentees during a six-week mentor phase. Our goal is to raise funds to support the outstanding Club programs our kids rely on and benefit from. The campaign will end with a virtual event on Oct. 22 to celebrate the mentors and mentees, and to share their inspiring stories.

We hope the Falls Church community can support this event to help more kids and teens achieve great futures and build upon the 130-year Boys & Girls Clubs success story!

Boy & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Region currently operates three clubs in Falls Church, Alexandria and Chantilly. Our Clubs prioritize Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles. Our programs use hands-on, interactive activities to help our kids develop critical thinking, physical, social, technological, artistic and life skills.

Our skilled staff are passionate about making each Club safe and welcoming with age-appropriate settings for children and teens. To learn more about how our Clubs deliver safety, service and success to your community please visit our website.

Leslie Atkins is a board member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington