Making a Difference

Each day, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond is moved by the generosity of its supporters. Some give their time. Others give their talents. Some make financial contributions. More often than not, supporters donate all three.

Their involvement begins by simply saying “yes.” And what genuinely inspires these friends to give is the same thing that inspires the work done at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond – making a difference in the life of a child.

Ron Carey (center) attending a recent Youth of the Year event.

Ron Carey (center) attending a recent Youth of the Year event.

Ron Carey was one of those children. Some of his best childhood memories are of spending afternoons at the Robinson Street Club. It’s where he and his brother and best friends would spend the afternoons, learning how to swim and playing bumper pool.

“I distinctly remember rolling up my swim trunks in a towel and having red eyes from the chlorine at the end of the day,” Ron laughed.

After Ron left Richmond to attend the University of Virginia, his career took him all over. When he returned to Richmond in 2004, some friends encouraged him to get involved in the Club as a panelist for the Distinguished Leadership Awards.

The stories he heard the young people tell genuinely moved him.  

“Instead of dwelling on the challenging environments they came from, they turned it into a positive. They were saying, ‘this may be where I have come from, but I’m not going to allow that to define me as I move forward,’” Ron said. “You heard about the trauma that may have happened in their lives, but then you heard about how they were doing in school and their aspirations in life. To me, to hear that has consistently stood out as one of the most impactful things.”

He saw that the need was still prevalent and Ron knew he could help.  Before he knew it, President and CEO, Todd McFarlane, was encouraging Ron to join the Board, a position he was honored to accept.

In addition to his work on the Board, Ron was active in supporting the Create New Statistics comprehensive capital campaign, as well as the Strategic Planning Committee. His commitment has helped shape the goals of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond and create an organization that is “flexible and fluid enough that it can adapt and adjust to where the greatest need is in the community.”

“Quite frankly, what we’ve seen is when given the right support and the right boost up, many of our kids can go off and achieve some really great things,” Ron, now the founder and CEO of Tilt Creative + Production, said. “If we take the resources we have now and invest properly, we can help even more move forward.”

Toni Ardabell recently invited teens members to Bon Secours for a tour

Toni Ardabell recently invited teens members to Bon Secours for a tour

Toni Ardabell was sitting in a management roundtable meeting about two years ago listening to presentations from various nonprofit organizations, one of which was Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. She was struck by how the mission of the Clubs aligned so closely with Bon Secours Richmond Health Systems, where she is the CEO, and her personal belief in helping children. She instantly knew that she wanted to become more involved.

“Overall, I was just impressed with the mission and the children that Boys & Girls Clubs was serving,” she said. She gladly accepted a Board position in 2017 and has been impressed by the intentionality of the work and the ability of the organization to pivot into the future.

“What has surprised me is how Boys & Girls Clubs is transitioning into serving people longer so that they are not falling through the cracks…and figuring out where there is a need that is unmet versus just holding on to what we’ve always done,” she said. “I think that is brave and very courageous and different.”

Walter Robertson.jpg

It started with a game of basketball for Walter Robertson. In the 1980s, he coached recreation basketball, and several of the young men Walter worked with were members of the Boys Club. One day, Walter mentioned to his friend Austin Brockenbrough III how much he enjoyed working with those particular players. Austin, who was a longtime supporter of the Club, suggested Walter get involved. Walter agreed, and 30 years later he’s still engaged, now as a member of the Foundation Board.

“I don’t think there’s a better organization for boys and girls and young men and women to get on the right path and stay on the right path like Boys & Girls Clubs,” Walter said.

Throughout the years, Walter has watched many young people take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Clubs and is moved by their successes. He still remembers one of the first boys he coached - Sean. He watched Sean grow up in the Clubs and attend Virginia Tech on track scholarship, something that may not have been possible without the Club.

Walter, a managing director at Lowe, Brockenbrough & Co., has also watched the Club itself grow, continually delivering better programs and facilities, dispensing opportunities and providing safe spaces in the areas that need services the most.

“There are very few places that I’ve seen in Richmond over the years which have consistently delivered, grown and perfected what they do,” Walter said. “Until we get systematic change, we’ve got to have the creativity of a Boys & Girls Club to be front and center and on the cutting edge of what makes for a better environment for disadvantaged youth.”

“The single greatest bit of work the organization does is providing an adult that can be a supporter/cheerleader/advocate and providing a positive experience for a kid.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond plays many roles for the youth and families they serve.

For Ron, he believes that it all begins with having positive role models in the Clubs.

“The single greatest bit of work the organization does is providing an adult that can be a supporter/cheerleader/advocate and providing a positive experience for a kid,” Ron said. “That’s the single greatest role the Clubs serve and everything else builds from there – you want to expose them to STEM to learn about science and technology or want them to learn about reading or learn about entrepreneurship. So much of that starts from a place of a kid knowing, ‘hey, there’s an adult person that cares about me, and as a result, I’m going to listen to them.’”

For Toni, she views the greatest impact as having an all-encompassing program that provides a safe space, positive peer group, supportive staff and helps grow emotional intelligence and build skills.

“All of it makes a difference. To do one of it without the rest of it is an incomplete program,” Toni said. “We’re teaching children the skills to cope with their life, how to deal with anger and failure and success. I think that’s extremely important.”

Walter sees the organization as an advocate for young people and their families, that works with them to help change their communities. That impact begins by unleashing the potential in a young person.

“It really starts with one kid at a time. If we can do that and stay proactive, I think we can perpetuate something positive in those communities and really help change the entire dynamic.”

“The way I see the world, the biggest way to make a difference is to change the life of a child”

The personal connections that Ron, Toni and Walter have with the Club are experiences they’d like to see all supporters have. What’s unique about Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond is the variety of ways in which differences can be made. One could simply say “yes” to mentoring members, to being involved on the Board, to attending a special event or to making a contribution. Whatever the first step, you’ll soon find yourself making an impact as part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond family.

“That is the single greatest thing you can do as a donor…stop into a Club and connect with a child to understand a bit of what the need is and understand who these children are,” Ron said.

Toni agreed. “The way I see the world, the biggest way to make a difference is to change the life of a child. That gives that child an opportunity to contribute to society in a way they wouldn’t have had without philanthropic support in their life.”

For the last 30 years, Walter has seen how the ideas and contributions of supporters have impacted the lives of young people on daily basis.

“We know what betterment looks like at Boys & Girls Clubs. If you want to create betterment, there isn’t a better place to stretch your philanthropic dollar,” Walter said.

Help open new doors for the young people of Richmond and Petersburg by supporting our work.