Veterans Day: Boys & Girls Clubs of America Marks 20 Years of Serving Children of U.S. Military

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Worldwide Programs Now Serving 460,000 Youth in 15 Countries

For 20 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (http://www.bgca.org) has been providing the children of American military families’ vital services and programs – wherever they are stationed around the world. Since 1991, children have had access to on-base Youth Centers that offer the same guidance and proven programs - focusing on academic success, good character and citizenship and healthy living - provided by traditional Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States.

“Children of military families face more than the usual challenges of growing up, from moving and re-establishing friendships every few years to worrying about family members who have been deployed,” says Terrill Wicks, vice president, Military Services & International Projects for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

As the military deploys troops in and out of multiple active combat zones, BGCA’s traditional Clubs also assist families with the transition to civilian life, especially when the youth has a wounded, ill, or injured parent.

The Next Five Years
With the just-announced plan to have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year, and the goal of drawing down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan over the next five years, BGCA’s mission will adapt accordingly. The influx of military parents returning from war is expected to result in a corresponding rise in mental health issues for both youth and parents.

BGCA training and support will focus more on that area, and the organization plans to increase community support through traditional Clubs. Staff will assist families with the transition to civilian life, especially when children have a wounded, ill or injured parent.

What the Youth Centers Offer
From teen leadership groups to fine arts exhibitions, BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers give members a safe haven to learn and grow. The military Youth Center is a positive place that offers a wide variety of educational, recreational, cultural and social activities. Using a comprehensive youth development strategy, caring, trained staff provide guidance in helping girls and boys to:

  •     Discover needs and pursue interests
  •     Nurture talents
  •     Broaden viewpoints and dissolve prejudices
  •     Resolve conflicts
  •     Set goals
  •     Develop better sense of self

A History of Service
Boys & Girls Clubs of America's partnership with the military began in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. As parents in the Reserves and National Guard were deployed overseas, BGCA asked local Clubs to reach out to children in need, providing memberships and special programming to some 17,000 youth.

Over the next two decades BGCA worked with the Department of Defense to develop formal partnerships to extend the program to each branch of the Armed Forces -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Today the program is thriving across all fronts, with 386 Youth Centers serving almost 460,000 children in the United States and 15 different countries.

“Military children are resilient and proud of their parents’ service. The changes in the type of wars our country fights, and the multiple deployments that go along with that, require us to re-focus the support we provide to military youth,” says Wicks. “This is particularly important during the deployment and reintegration process, where we must sustain and strengthen their resiliency.”

A Sense of Continuity
Youth Centers are there to help, providing stability and a sense of place. Most military parents are redeployed every two to three years, creating a challenge for their children to settle in and make friends. The consistent Boys & Girls Club programs at every military installation Youth Center address that issue, so youth see familiar services, programs and resources no matter where their family is deployed.

And because military families are located in every community, especially now that more than 75 percent of them live off-base, Boys & Girls Clubs everywhere open their doors to children of all military families. The Clubs give these young people a safe place to go, staffed with caring adults who provide relief.

BGCA Military Programs - By the Numbers

Youth Served by Service

  •     Air Force: 141,052
  •     Army: 227,407
  •     Marine Corps: 22,982
  •     Navy: 66,722
  •     Coast Guard: 831
  •     Countries: 15
  •     Total Youth Served: 460,000

About Boys & Girls Clubs of America
For more than 100 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (GreatFutures.org) has enabled young people most in need to achieve great futures as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Today, nearly 4,000 Clubs serve some 4 million young people through Club membership and community outreach. Clubs are located in cities, towns, public housing and on Native American lands throughout the country and on U.S. military installations worldwide. They provide a safe place, caring adult mentors, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours.

Club programs promote academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. In a Harris Survey of alumni, 57 percent said the Club saved their lives. National headquarters are located in Atlanta. Learn more at http://bgca.org/facebook and http://bgca.org/twitter.

Contact: Mitch Leff, (404) 861-4769, mitch(at)leffassociates(dot)com

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