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E.J. and Jen Hughes, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale

Dynamic Duo Doing Good For Boys & Girls Clubs Of Greater Scottsdale

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
Web: bgcs.org

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale

Boys & Girls Clubs Of Greater Scottsdale Scores No. 1 Status

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s Vestar Branch has been chosen from nearly 4,000 chartered clubs as the top branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). The award was recently given to the Vestar Branch at the nonprofit’s national conference held in San Diego earlier this summer.

“This award is a tremendous honor,” says Caitlin Sageng, Vestar branch director. “It is also a direct reflection of how hard our staff works every day to make sure our youth receive the programming they need to reach their full potential.”

The award was given to the Vestar Branch as determined by entries submitted in each of BGCA’s five core program categories: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; and sports, fitness and recreation.

The Vestar Branch’s main programming objectives are to empower youth to better themselves, their club and the community. Some of the different programs that provide varied and unique opportunities for their members include:

Adopt-a-Family: Supports more than 91 kids and parents in need at the organization.
Primal Fitness program: Reinforces members’ fitness knowledge and nutrition levels.
The Keystone Club: This teen group focuses on community service, including volunteering monthly at a local food bank and assisting with homeless shelters.
Power Hour: An academic program that helps youth reach their educational potential and set goals throughout the school year.
Drama Club: Encourages club members’ self-esteem by performing plays like “Alice in Wonderland” during summer programming.
Center for Telepresence: Through this high-tech center, youth can connect, communicate and learn from experts around the world in a variety of fields.

“We feel the best way to make the Vestar Branch successful in our community is by offering quality programs to youth and maintaining a positive connection between members and staff,” Sageng says. “These relationships transcend through all programs and keep members coming back more and most importantly, allow us to have a lasting impact.”

In July 2007, the Vestar Branch opened in the Desert Ridge community, serving more than 8,300 families in and around the northeast Phoenix area. This 27,000-square-foot facility offers all members ages six to 18 a Phoenix Suns-sponsored gymnasium, a state-of-the-art learning center and Thunderbirds Charities Center for Telepresence program, a fun and innovative science education program. Youth ages 13 to 18 also have access to a 6,000-square-foot Lamb Family Teen Center.

In addition to the award, the Vestar Branch also received a $5,000 award from MetLife Foundation, sponsor of the awards program, which honors local Clubs for innovative, effective programming.

This is also the second time a Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale Branch has been given the honor; the organization’s Virginia G. Piper Branch also received the award in 2009. Named after a longtime supporter of youth services in the Scottsdale area, the Virginia G. Piper Branch opened in Scottsdale Ranch in 1991. Today, the Clubhouse is one of the highest-membership facilities operated by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. In December 2010, construction began to renovate the Piper Branch, which now offers a full-service Teen Center that opened in May 2011. The organization’s administration offices are also located next door.

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 to continue MetLife’s longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Through programs that focus on empowering older adults, preparing young people and building livable communities, MetLife Foundation help increase access and opportunities for people of all ages. Since its founding, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $530 million in grants to nonprofit organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. For more information, visit metlife.org.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, please visit bgcs.org.