These were the words proclaimed by children donned in white t-shirts that conveyed the status of so many of America and Maury County’s youth today. Some shirts read “Poverty,” some read ”Dropout,” while others read “Single Parent Home.” Pastor Trent Ogilvie presented harrowing statistics related to each category and recounted the personal stories of some of the local children. After each, the youth stepped forward, stripped off their t-shirts with gravité and proclaimed, “Because of YOU, we won’t be another statistic.”
The youth’s dramatic presentation at the 2015 Boys & Girls Club Luncheon on April 15 culminated with Ketron Hatton standing on stage in a green and white striped prison jumpsuit that illustrated, all too well, the soaring juvenile incarceration rate for high school drop outs and the fact that, in the U.S, one in three African American males born today can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
Ketron, however, is determined not to be one of those statistics and proved this without a shadow of a doubt as he removed his jumpsuit to reveal his full ROTC uniform, replete with a bevy of medals. The audience then learned that Ketron is the Tennessee Youth of the Year, selected from among all 21 of the Clubs across the state of TN. The audience gave him a well-deserved standing ovation after his speech about how the Boys & Girls Club (BGC) has helped him not become another statistic. As Youth of the Year, Ketron received $5,000 and a full ride scholarship to Tennessee State University.
Although the Boys & Girls Club of Maury County is relatively young in its formation (1999), it is recognized as having the best academic program of all the Boys & Girls Clubs in the state, boasting a graduation rate of 100% for all its youth. The emphasis of the luncheon, however, was that the Club’s many awards and achievements are, in large part, due to the continued involvement and contributions of the people from our community, from the staff and Board of Directors to volunteers, teachers, mentors and benefactors.
As such, a number of awards were presented at the luncheon. Kristy Bergstrom, the Plant Communication Manager of General Motors, presented Jack Cobb of UAW General Motors with the “New Board Member of the Year Award” in recognition of all of his hard work behind the scenes. Children holding giant Jack Cobb head photos added a touch of humor to the award.
Dr. Bill Thrasher, Board Chair, and Patty Ridley, recently retired Board member, introduced this year's recipients of the inaugural “Philanthropist of the Year Award”: Don and Eva James Crichton. Two sisters from the Club, Tiaja and Zoria Pye, took the stage to speak about the impact the Crichtons have had on their lives. They ended with the proclamation, “I am a Crichton.” In a moving display of unity and appreciation, BGC children around the room stood up one at a time to echo the pronouncement.
The featured speaker of this year’s luncheon was legendary basketball player, Dale Ellis, who was introduced by James Bennett, the new editor of the Columbia Daily Herald. Mr. Ellis spoke at length about his basketball career and attributed much of his success to the Boys & Girls Club programs that gave him a safe place to go after school and kept him on track to achieve his dream of being one of the best basketball players in the world. His impartation to the youth was “to set your goals as high as possible, reach for those goals but be happy, even if you land somewhere in the middle.”
Indeed the BGC of Maury County is an organization that helps kids make their dreams come true, as was evidenced by the vocal and writing skills of Melvin Odom and Teen members who sang their original song “Dreams.” The luncheon was closed by Club members Jessica Harrison and Tamiya Ellis’ rendition of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All,” which in the end nicely summed up what the volunteers, board, staff and benefactors give the children at the BGC of Maury County.
The luncheon was held downtown at Puckett’s Restaurant and Grocery, by host sponsor Andy Marshall of Puckett’s, with BGC board members serving the crowd. The title (Platinum) sponsor was Community First Bank & Trust. Gold sponsor was Maury Regional Medical Center. Silver sponsors included Twice Daily and First Farmers & Merchants Bank. International Assurance of Tennessee was the Bronze sponsor. Centerpieces by Mum's the Word.
As Margaret Mead so wisely said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
* Photography by Ross Jaynes. To view more photos of the luncheon and to order prints, please go to: rossjaynes.com.