Olympian throws herself into Boys and Girls Club cause

The Boys & Girls Club of the Grand Strand will add an Olympic flair to celebrate with its inaugural “Champions of Youth” dinner benefit.

Amber Campbell, a 2004 Coastal Carolina University graduate who competed in the hammer throw at Summer Olympics in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, will give the keynote address at the event.

Tickets are $25 to the feast, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ocean Lakes Family Campground Recreation Center, at U.S. 17 Bypass and S.C. 544, just north of Surfside Beach.

Don Hall, executive director of the club, discussed the coordination of this salute to youth, another way to raise awareness of making a difference for children year round across the community,.

Question | How did you land Campbell as your special guest, one of the premier local athletes of late – besides of course, Everett Golson, the freshman quarterback at the No. 1 ranked University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

Answer | Maybe we can get Mr. Golson for next year; who knows? ... Amber has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club in the past, and she has talked with youth about having goals and achieving them, and talked about bullying. ... She has been somebody who has been motivational, to help kids, to overcome bullying and to not become bullies. ... This is all about having a positive, uplifting message. Our saying is, “Great futures start here.” We’re all about helping kids toward their great future.

Q. | This dinner also will honor Colbert Brown Jr. and wife Lena Brown, two founding board members of the club in 1998. How has the need for, and delivery of services, changed and grown since then?

A. | We’ve grown. Our original club site, on Carver Street, ... that’s become a teen center. We’ve transplanted our elementary school-age programs, which are based at the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center, on Oak Street. ...

Q. | How different a group is teens vs. younger children with whom to work and engage?

A. | There’s certainly a different population of teens who can vote with their feet. It’s all about providing that safe place to go. We also help them focus on academic success, character, leadership skills and leading a healthy lifestyle. It’s making a transition for us to continue serving kids as they go into middle school and beyond. ...

Q. | What other entities have helped widen the club’s teamwork in serving the community?

A. | We’ve been fortunate to have some partners step forward, like the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. They have provided some funding into a new computer lab, with ... access to technology that will help kids be successful academically. It’s a necessary skill to have if you’re going to have a job in the future. Time Warner Cable is another great partner; they help provide funding for our robotics program for our middle school kids: STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – school kids know all about it. That’s what the folks at Boeing and many other companies are looking for.

Q. | Just how active does the club remain? How much do youngsters frequent the club, and what’s a typical day like once they arrive on site?

A. | For most kids, the ones we have the greatest effect on, it’s five days a week, and it starts off with an after-school snack, then assistance with homework, and just that safe, fun place to go, because parents are working and not at home. We all know the danger hours for kids are that time immediately following school. ... Now with kids in single-parent families and kids living in nontraditional family settings, it’s more difficult for kids in this day and age, and more kids are living in poverty.

Q. | How many people make up the extended family in the club?

A. | We have more than 270 members so far this year. ... On a daily basis, at our site in the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center, we have more than 100 kids enrolled. At the teen center, it’s brand new, but we still have anywhere from 15 to 20 kids coming on a daily basis.

Q. | What other assets of the area reach out to help?

A. | We have a core volunteer staff, and we have a number of volunteers who help in the teen center, whether they’re from Coastal Carolina University or Horry-Georgetown Technical College, or other places. We have senior citizens who come and help and like to stay active, and want to be involved in some day-to-day things. We also have a bunch of people from Leadership Grand Strand, 30 of them, who are helping.

Q. | Celebrating youth with a special night: was the timing just right for this season?

A. | It kind of culminates at this time of year; it really does, to give thanks for the support of the community to make the Boys & Girls Club work. ... Colbert and Lena Brown are some great examples of showing the importance of investing in kids now, so we don’t have to pay a whole bunch more later on. ... We felt like this was a great opportunity to kind of celebrate and raise awareness.

Q. | So adults have just as vital a role, a stake, in a Boys and Girls club, to help youth have a fun, safe place for quality time outside of school?

A. | It helps keep them on the right track. It’s such a simple concept, but it does work.