November 06, 2013
This year 1 million high school students, one in four, are projected to fail to graduate with their classes. However, one organization is working tirelessly to reduce these statistics. The Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) works to create "bright futures" for our youth across the nation. Twenty-eight percent of BGCA alumni say they would have dropped out of high school if not for their involvement with a local Boys & Girls Club. And more than half of BGCA alumni say BGCA saved their lives. It's truly an organization that provides a powerful conduit to affect our communities and future leaders.
Recently, I had the honor of chairing BGCA's Great Futures Gala for the Southeast Region at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The event raises funds and awareness for BGCA. We tried to bring the Club experience to life by transforming the reception area into an actual Club with computers, games, a pool table and foosball. Thirty-five Club kids also attended the gala, and it was great to see them interacting with adults and showing them how to play certain games. We really did create an engaging Club-like atmosphere.
More than 450 people attended the gala, which included dinner and a performance by Motown legends The Four Tops. Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers spoke, and we honored leaders and organizations who have dedicated themselves to the BGCA mission. Our Southeast Region Youth of the Year, Meeri Shin, also spoke about the impact BGCA has had on her. My office is filled with thank-you cards and photos with similar stories of the opportunities BGCA has afforded. Most Club members have endured some sort of personal challenge, so for them to have a safe place where they can develop useful life skills truly helps these young adults believe in themselves and in their ability to achieve their goals.
We have a long history of supporting BGCA's work, which goes beyond the financial contributions provided by Darden and the Darden Foundation. I am proud of my service as a Trustee for BGCA's Southeast Region for the past three years. Personally, this has allowed me to carry on the values of our founder Bill Darden, who always believed in the spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy. As a Trustee, I have direct involvement and input on BGCA programs, projects, recruitment and fundraising. I am able to leverage my leadership experience to help BGCA's management as well. I also encourage everyone throughout Darden to get involved.
Recently, teams from LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden came out to Piedmont Park in Atlanta to participate in BGCA's Day for Kids, which is a massive field day that allows adults to relive their childhood through nostalgic games and to raise awareness and funds for BGCA's mission. They participated as one team that was coached and guided by Club kids. The event was a great way to create awareness about the positive impact BGCA has on kids in the community.
The Darden Foundation’s Recipe for Success™ platform is built on fostering opportunity for our youth, so we sponsor organizations like BGCA that provide students with the training and tools to help them succeed. We are proud to underwrite BGCA's Diplomas to Degrees program, which helps Club members as they work toward high school graduation and prepare for post-secondary education and career success. At a local level, our individual restaurants provide community grants to support Clubs and educational activities. Like BGCA and its network of Clubs across the country, we believe in investing in bright futures for every child.
To learn more about Darden’s Recipe for Success™ program, visit the Darden Foundation website.
By: Dave George, President, Olive Garden
Pictured: Dave George presents the Boys & Girls Club of America Champion of Youth Award to Bank of America. Geri Thomas, Georgia Market President for Bank of America, accepted the award.
Related post: Youth of the Year Finalists Defy Odds and Serve as Inspiration