More than 200 set sail on March 25 for the Great Future’s Gala to benefit The Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania (BGCWPA). The celebration kicked off at 6 pm with guests boarding the famously unique Pittsburgh attraction, The Gateway Clipper.  The itinerary might have included a cruise of the three rivers, but this organization had its sights set on something much larger.  This journey was all about enabling local youth to reach their potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania continues to be a staple in our community.  Their core belief is to provide a safe place to learn and grow and where youth can form ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals.  Through life-enhancing programs and character development experiences, the organization fosters hope and opportunity to youth who need it most.  The clubs currently serves over 7,000 youth each year in eight branch sites throughout Allegheny County. Their saying is, “When schools are out, the Club is in.”

One of the organizations’ greatest advantages is the ability to adapt to the ever changing youth population, allowing them to continue their mission for over 125 years. Operating after school hours and throughout the summer, their goals have adapted to meet the needs of those they serve.  A priority in today’s clubs is the focus on health and nutrition to combat childhood obesity. Their programming emphasizes sports, fitness and recreation; while children develop education and career goals, expand their character and leadership development, and learn new life skills.

The gala sponsored by Gateway Clipper & Comcast, was led by Event Chair Kay Reinstadtler.  Don Michel, Vice Chair of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania Board of Directors, served as Master of Ceremonies.  Highlights included recognition of outstanding teens in eight Boys & Girls Clubs in Western Pennsylvania. All youth were chosen for their leadership qualities, service to the community, exceptional morals, values and achievements at their local Club.  Those being recognized included:

  • Hunter Smutney :Carnegie Club
  • Jasia Scott: Duquesne-West Mifflin Club
  • Steven Porco :Estelle S. Campbell Club in Lawerenceville
  • Jordon Payne: LaRosa Club in McKeesport
  • Jessica Mayowski: Sto-Ken-Rox Club
  • Renee Killmeyer: Northern Area Club in Millvale
  • Elijah Grier:Shadyside/Easty Liberty Club
  • Vanessa Todd:Wilkinsburg Club

E.J. Ferris had the honor of announcing the Western Pennsylvania Youth of the Year and presenting the “Edward J. Ferris, Sr. Memorial Award to Hunter Smutney of the Carnegie Club.  A club member for 9 years, he currently serves as junior staff in the afterschool program. Hunter notes that the Club has been “a second home” to him. His future plans are to attend college and pursue a career as an aeronautical engineer.  Also honored was Jordon Payne who received “The 2015 Dapper Dan Athlete of the Year”and Samantha Andrekanic and Olivia Cindrich who were chosen as the 2015 Volunteers of the Year.

A peak moment from the evening included the conclusion of the Boys & Girls Club fund raising “Kiss A Pig” drive generating over $65,000.  Local advocates, club members and families have been raising money for 2 months to see whose “piggy bank” would be the fullest. The top three fundraisers were announced and had the honors of kissing a pig –literally!  Guests “squeeled” with glee as winners Jim Barry, Mike Hepler & Don Panucci each took a turn smooching with Nola.  This 45 pound miniature Juliana Pet Pig lives in Cranberry with Christopher & Lauren Miladinovich and became an honorary member of the club March 4.

All money generated from this year’s gala continues to ensure that every young person who enters through a clubs’ doors has the best opportunity of a ‘Great Future”.  “This fundraising opportunity has more than exceeded our expectation for the first year and we are so excited to put the dollars raised towards educational and recreations programs for the youth in each of our eight clubs,” said Susan Kalich, Vice President and Chief Development Officer.  “The young people we serve come from all walks of life and we are honored to be a part of such a great community of people who have continued so support our efforts for the past 12 decades.  The success of the Great Futures Gala allows us to open many doors to the young people who need us most.”

Mark your calendars for the 38th Annual Nellie King Golf Classic June 8th at the Sewickley Heights Golf Club.  Registrations before May 1, 2015 will be offered a 10% discount.

For more information on Boys & Girls Club locations or how you can help support their efforts, visit their website at: http://www.bgcwpa.org