Boys & Girls Clubs celebrate fundraising successes

MILFORD — Youth in Delaware are benefitting from the community support of local Boys & Girls Clubs after successful fundraising efforts brought in thousands of dollars.

The Great Futures Fund announced its donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oak Orchard and Milford Thursday, after its February gala held at The Peninsula.

“Through the incredible generosity of our local community members, the fundraising committee was able to shatter our original financial goals for this event,” Event Chair Leanne Silicato Prosser said.

“My sister, Nicole (Silicato Miller), and I have been part of the Boys and Girls Club of Milford for many years. After moving to Long Neck with our families, we discovered the local Club here in Oak Orchard and wanted to help them with their plans for growth to accommodate the need in this area.”

Hundreds of children are served daily between the two facilities. Senior Executive Director of the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club Tod Van Eyken said his facility now sees 40-45 more children than the group served this year last year.

“We believe that has everything to do with the quality of the program,” he said. “Attendance is good this year. And we get around 100 teens every Friday night.”

To help ease the burden of programming and running the business of growing youth in the community, Great Futures Fund donated $15,000 to the Milford-based club and $60,000 to the Oak Orchard Boys & Girls Club.

“We run before- and after-school programs, a preschool, and a summer camp program here,” Erica Kennedy, director of the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Orchard, said. “The current programs are running on all cylinders; however, we currently have over a two-page waiting list of youth that would like to attend our Club and we simply don’t have the space.”

Boys & Girls Clubs use donated funds from groups like the Great Futures Fund to keep up with scholarship needs, supplies, summer camp programs and more. The Oak Orchard club is also hoping to expand its existing facility in the near future.

“We are looking into our next steps with the club leadership,” said Silicato Prosser, a board member for the Oak Orchard club and the director of the Great Futures Fund.

“The way the community rallied around raising these initial funds was absolutely fantastic. From our sponsors to the on-site volunteers to the club employees and families who attended the event, this was truly an inspirational evening. We hope to continue our path forward, with the help of the community, to achieve our ultimate goal of providing more services for children, teens, and families in need with a facility expansion in Oak Orchard.”

Mr. Van Eyken said the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club celebrated its own expansion anniversary just last month.

“Over the last six weeks, we have celebrated the 10th anniversary of this building. We had about 100 folks in the gymnasium, including folks that were a part of the original capital campaign,” he said. “The very next night, we celebrated six of our young folks in our junior youth of the year competition at the elementary school level. And then the check presentation, which was a result of a gala held in early February. That will be a huge help to our fundraising year.”

An annual bowl-a-thon was also held in Milford to support the local club in hopes of helping provide the brightest future they can for the youth they serve.

“We’re impacting the future of Milford. We’re doing our job right in terms of impacting the kids who walk in and out of our doors,” he said, adding that the Milford Parks & Recreations Department and local swim teams also use the facility.

“Primarily, our fundraising events, not grants or fees, drive our scholarship program which lets me help the parents who make too much to get state assistance, but can’t afford these programs. It also helps with pool repairs, the unknown boiler breakdown… things that are hard to budget.”

He also hopes to upgrade the security system and purchase other equipment through the help of fundraisers and donations. In the past, the club used donated funds to help purchase vans now used, in part, to take teenagers home from the facility at night to create a safer environment.

“It takes the pressure off to some degree. One of the things it has allowed me to do this year is not plan any price increases. That’s important,” he said. “And the big focus statewide – we’re focused on getting more teens in our clubs. From Laurel to Claymont, we’re serving more teens than ever before. But, we want more. It will hopefully make our streets safer because they’re not out on the streets doing stupid things. And we’re adding college and job readiness [information] in the programs. It will benefit them in the future. At the end of the day, we think that makes Delaware better.”

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