Weekly Feature

2018-07-05 / Front Page

Boys & Girls Club looks to reconnect former members


Adult campers at Camp Ska-No-Ka-San in Holland get ready for a canoe race during Adult Day at the camp. Adult campers at Camp Ska-No-Ka-San in Holland get ready for a canoe race during Adult Day at the camp. For many kids in East Aurora, their childhood is intertwined with memories of the local Boys & Girls Club.

“I don’t remember middle school; I remember the club,” said Jamie Roe, a former member who now sits on the committee for The Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora Alumni Association.

“It was my childhood. I can’t just say that about myself; everybody on the (Alumni Association) committee has a story like I do.”

Now, Roe is hoping to reunite others who have similar sentiments about the club. On Saturday, July 14, Boys & Girls Club alumni who are 21 and older are invited to spend the night at Camp Ska-No-Ka-San, a 40-acre day camp in Holland, for an adult camp experience.

Starting at 2:30 p.m., campers can enjoy the activities kids experience on a day-to-day basis at the camp, from hiking to canoeing and even a ropes course. The camp, Roe said, is open to both members and non-members, however admission for non-members is $25.

Roe said in the past, the camp has been a lot of fun.

“You just get to hang out at camp all day,” she said. “It just gives you a connection back to camp.”

That connection with former members is what drives Roe and others involved in the alumni organization to keep the group going. Roe said during the club’s 40 years, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to form an alumni association.

“Every time over the 40 years, it has slowly dissolved just because (there weren’t) enough committee members or not enough people coming out to support it,” she explains.

In 2014, a group of community members decided to try and form the committee one more time. She said the group was comprised of older members who were looking for younger members to help run it. Roe said the committee formed as a way to reconnect those who had once belonged to the organization. On the side, the group would work to raise money for the club, but Roe said that wasn’t the original intent.

“People wanted a way that they could not just be a member of the alumni (association) but to give something back to the club, too.”

The group held its first event, a happy hour get together, at Wallenweins in 2015. Roe said about 65 people showed up for that inaugural event. Since then, more annual events have taken place, including Dance through the Decades and Adult Night at the club, which is held at the club’s Paine Street building.

“We get out the big, huge soccer balls and we have the games room open. It’s (held) the night before Thanksgiving, so a lot of people are in town just because it’s the holidays,” she said, adding that because of those events, she has become more familiar with the current layout of the club.

“If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t know the kitchen area or how the teen room was renovated and changed.”

The group has also changed in the past four years from one large committee to several smaller committees focused on different events.

“Instead of having 20 people come to every meeting, we have five go to this one, five go to that one.”

Roe also explains the group wanted to include people who may not have attended as children, but had some connection to the club.

“For example, my mother never came to the club but she was board president here for three different sessions. It was more for parents or just people who love the club because it’s in their family and because their kids go there, or because their spouse went there,” Roe said.

As for Roe herself, the club has played a significant role in her life.

“This was my everything,” she said. “Every day after school until 5:30 p.m. I was at the club.”

Roe said she began attending at age 10 and quickly became involved in a variety of activities, from peer mentors to teen club and even summer camp, where she eventually became a camp consoler. She credits the people at the club and it’s environment with helping her find her way in the world.

“I am a teacher now, not because of my experience at East Aurora High School or East Aurora Middle school. It’s because of my experience at the club.”

Roe believes the club taught her as much, if not more, than what she learned in the classroom setting.

“I think it creates pathways for kids to make their own decisions. In school, you can’t always choose if you’re going to math next or if you’re going to science. Your day is very much controlled by the adults around you. Where, when you’re here and you’re at camp, you make some decisions and you get to do things that you love.”

Roe adds that the people at the club, along with the supportive environment, is what got her through most school day.

“I think the club provides a safe place for kids to explore their own interests and grow as individuals.”

For more information on the The Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora Alumni Associations, visit www.bgcea.org/alumni—friends-association-membership.html.

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