E.J. Hughes is a “middle kid.”
“Actually, I am the oldest of two, but I am definitely what you call a ‘middle,’ ” Hughes says.
To Hughes, a “middle kid” is neither the top 10 percent of kids who always overachieve, nor the bottom 10 percent of kids who are always in trouble. Both of these groups, according to Hughes, tend to get a lot of attention.
And then there is the other 80 percent — the middle kids.
“As a middle kid, I wasn’t quite sure where I fit all the time,” Hughes says. “Until I found the Boys & Girls Club.”
At first, Hughes mostly just played whatever Boys & Girls Club sport was being offered on any given day. However, once he hit his teens, he discovered the organization’s Keystone Club, a leadership development program focused on providing teens from 14 to 18 community service opportunities, academic success support and career preparation.
“It also didn’t hurt that there was a pretty girl in the group, Marion, who I had my eye on,” Hughes says. “Today, she is my wife and mother to our three kids.”
Through Keystone, Hughes and his team had the chance to volunteer in soup kitchens and at shelters as well as volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and raise funds to attend leadership conferences nationwide, including a trip to Washington, D.C.
Eager to touch the lives of other “middle kids” like himself, Hughes dedicated himself to the Club, first as a teen junior staff member, then as a youth development specialist, then as a branch director and finally today as director of Club services.
One of his biggest contributions to the Club has been the development of a College 101 program for high school students, which brings in guests speakers as well as community leaders and educators to help teens make decisions about life after high school.
“He certainly inspired me,” says Jen Hughes, E.J.’s younger sister, who followed in her brother’s footsteps into the Club when she was in first grade.
While E.J. first turned to sports at the Club, Jen was attracted to the many fine arts programs.
“I was the girl who would ask to go to the bathroom and then sneak into the art room for hours,” Jen says,
Like E.J., Keystone also caught her eye.
“I loved being able to volunteer in the community with all of my best friends, not to mention fund-raise for the opportunity to travel the globe as a representative of the organization,” says Jen, who worked for two years to help raise $30,000 so her team could visit Europe while in high school.
Even after she left the Valley to move to Flagstaff for college, she would come back every summer to work with the Keystone kids and in the art room.
Today, she is the art coordinator for the Club, focusing on providing kids with access to photography programs, fine arts programs and even digital art imaging programs.
“Our DigiKids ImageMakers is a program offered through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that encourages Club members to learn and practice digital arts, including movie making, photo illustration, music making and graphic design,” Jen says. “This year marks the 10th anniversary of the National DigiKids Art Festival, and for the past three years, we have had kids place in the regional and national competitions.”
So, what’s next for this dynamic duo and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale?
“We have our inaugural Jingle and Mingle event at DC Ranch Market Street at 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, December 9,” Hughes says. “Set under the beautiful Market Street Holiday Tree, the event will offer guests the chance to sample savory bites from the culinary masterminds of North Scottsdale restaurants, including Mia Francesca, Armitage, and The Herb Box as well as sumptuous sips of holiday-themed spirits and wines provided by Southern Wine and Spirits.”
Single tickets are available at $125, with discounts on three or more, and are available at bgcs.org.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s Jingle and Mingle Event
When: Sunday, December 9 from 5:30-9 p.m.
Where: DC Ranch Market Street
Cost: $125, with discounts on three or more