Our Stories

Slam Dunk Shoe Raffle

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago recently partnered with Notre, a retail shop based in the West Loop that specializes in streetwear, sneakers, and other high-end fashion and design items. The shop regularly runs raffles for super in-demand sneakers (think Yeezy, NikeLab, Vans Vault), and has also previously turned fashion events into fundraising opportunities for local organizations. Notre's unique shoe raffle for BGCC raised $46,854 for “A Club for Home” initiatives!

Notre's raffle for BGCC included the release of a trio of Nike Dunk SP Lows in three colorways. For $3, Notre customers could enter a raffle drawing on July 1 for the opportunity to purchase their choice of the retro sneakers later that week for $100 + shipping. The hot-ticked item brought in 15,000 raffle entries with proceeds benefiting BGCC!

Those thousands of raffle entrants contributed to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s mission while chancing their luck for a pair of stylish kicks. In a social media post reporting the results of the raffle, hundreds of Notre’s followers expressed their support of our raffle partnership: “Amazing work” and “Incredible!” and “Keep doing this 👍”.

All donations support “A Club for Home” initiatives, launched by BGCC in response to the challenges facing Club members during the COVID-19 crisis. Programming that includes: a Virtual Club experience filled with activities such as story hour, art workshops, and science lessons for 1,700 active members, 2,500 "A Club for Home" kits packed with science materials, art supplies, books, and educational games to keep kids engaged in Club activities at home, and food distribution programs that feed hundreds of families hit hardest by the pandemic with prepared meals and groceries.

Restaurant GM & Club Alum Organizes Meal Kit Program

A home-cooked dinner and a professionally-prepared meal—BGCC gives members the best of both culinary delights through one of our meal kit programs. This summer 120 Club youth and their families received meal kits and grocery essentials thanks to the generosity of Eduardo’s Enoteca, the cozy Italian restaurant in the Gold Coast neighborhood.

This program, which runs through August 20, is the latest in a series of relief efforts Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago has delivered to its community to combat food insecurity resulting from the ongoing public health and economic crises facing Chicago. 

Byrd Jasper, the General Manager of Eduardo’s Enoteca, approached BGCC with the idea for this essential (and delicious) donation opportunity. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Byrd grew up attending Boys & Girls Clubs in Portland, Oregon, and was eager to find a way to give back to the Club community in her adopted hometown of Chicago. 

Each week Byrd shares a menu with Clubs, which distributes to members and their families meal kits and more. She’s even solicited special grocery requests to ensure that everyone’s dietary needs and preferences are met. Thanks to Byrd and her team, we’re serving up nutritious meals and inspiration to the next generation of top chefs.


Canceled Prom Funds Donated to BGCC Youth

The Class of 2020 missed so many memory-making opportunities. From dancing with friends at prom to picking up their diploma at graduation, this year’s class has not been able to participate in many of the rites of passage that mark the turning points in their young lives. 

But thanks to the generosity of fellow high school seniors at the Lycée Français de Chicago, BGCC received a $1,000 donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago to support our programming. With prom canceled, the graduating class at the Lycée Français de Chicago had unused funds and, according to class spokesperson Marcita Benjamin, the class was determined to make lemonade out of lemons, reaching out to BGCC to make a donation.

Located in the Ravenswood neighborhood, the Lycée Français de Chicago is a multicultural school with instruction in both English and French. Its Class of 2020 graduated 36 seniors who are ready to help build a better Chicago.

CCLC Grant

Boys & Girls Club of Chicago in partnership with Austin College and Career Academy, Beasley Academic Center, Funston Elementary School, and Kanoon Magnet School intend to submit an application to the Illinois Department of Education for a 21st CCLC grant. The grant will support an academic-focused after school program for students at Austin College and Career Academy, Beasley Academic Center, Funston Elementary School, and Kanoon Magnet School. If you have any comments on the proposed program, please contact info@bgcc.org. A copy of the application will be available for public review after submittal at the James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club.

BGCC Reopens its Doors for Summer Camp

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago reopened its doors for Summer Camp this week, with children across the city taking part in our programs. Programs such as Summer Brain Gain, a curriculum that helps prevent youth from falling behind and losing academic skills during summer and Triple Play, a health and wellness program that teaches our young people how to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

BGCC completed the City of Chicago Self-Certification Survey for safe reopening as our members' safety is of the utmost importance to us. Summer Camp will run in accordance with CDC guidelines and protocols.

Thanks to all who helped make this summer possible – our staff, partners, supporters, donors, and parents/guardians. Here's to a fun and safe summer!

Click here for Summer Camp photos.

BGCC Partnerships Secure Fresh Food for Families

Like too many Chicagoans, there are Club families who battle food insecurity. Recent events—like the statewide stay-at-home orders, business closures, and the suspension of at-school food programs—have only exacerbated the issue.

To help, BGCC joined forces with RealGood Stuff Co. and other partners to provide families with wholesome organic ingredients and groceries. At Club locations, staff members set up safe, socially-distant distribution sites where Club families could effectively grocery shop for the fresh food and groceries their families would otherwise go without.

"The food and groceries available at the Club during this time put food on our table when we would have struggled to do so on our own," said a member of one family supported by the program.

To date, RealGood Stuff Co.’s “Buy a Box, Give a Box” program has donated over 10,000 pounds of organic food sourced from local small farms.

Mayor Lightfoot Honors BGCC Chairman with Official Proclamation

Bart McCartin began his commitment to BGCC’s children over 15 years ago at our Valentine Club when he was a volunteer firefighter. First supporting Club members as a mentor, Bart’s desire to make positive change led him to take on increased leadership roles, culminating in his unprecedented four-year tenure as Chairman of BGCC’s Corporate Board of Directors.

While Bart’s term as Chairman officially drew to a close at the end of June, countless colleagues and peers couldn’t let the moment pass without celebrating his distinguished leadership and limitless contributions to Chicago’s children. Mayor of the City of Chicago, Lori E. Lightfoot, marked the occasion by declaring June 30, 2020 “Bartlett J. McCartin III Day” in the City of Chicago.

As Chairman, McCartin oversaw a sustained period of growth and prosperity for BGCC. In 2017, he founded the Great Futures Open, an organization-wide golf outing, which has raised over $750,000 since its inception. He’s deepened the organization’s commitment to the physical and emotional safety of our youth, launching a board-led safety committee and establishing a partnership with local law enforcement. Most recently, he established a scholarship fund, the McCartin Family Service Award, to bestow educational support to an exemplary, service-minded youth each year.

McCartin will continue his commitment to service by assuming the esteemed position of Chairman Emeritus. On behalf of the 20,000 children served by our Clubs each year, we offer our deepest thanks to Bart McCartin for his countless contributions to the children of Chicago.

BGCC Signing Week Celebrates College-Bound Seniors 

Warning: This story contains graphic accounts of ecstatic BLUE DEMONS, delirious WOLVERINES, and at least one proud BUCKEYE.

Fans of college sports will recognize these mascots from DePaul University, University of Michigan, and Ohio State University, respectively. These prestigious universities are among some of the many destinations for the high school senior members of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.

The Class of 2020 has had a senior year like no other—with cancelled proms and virtual graduations. While many celebrations were called off due to COVID-19, BGCC commemorated the hard won college-bound success stories of Club seniors. At the end of June, “College Signing Week” took over BGCC, highlighting the achievements of our seniors.

Included were soon-to-be students of Big Ten universities like Michigan, Ohio State, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; historically black colleges and universities like Howard University; and local and in-state schools like DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Western Illinois University, Columbia College Chicago, and University of Illinois-Chicago. There are also members joining the armed forces, including the U.S. Army.

Our seniors will pursue degrees in diverse fields such as Sociology, Biochemistry, Graphic Design, Child Psychology, Economics, and Health Administration. The last field is the declared major of Harriet C., a member of the Pedersen-McCormick Club and the first in her family to attend college, who wants to impact better health care outcomes for minority groups.

Join us in congratulating these special Club members embarking on their next exciting chapter!


A Club for Home Kits Delivered to More Members’ Doorsteps

After delivering 500 A Club for Home kits to doorsteps in April, Club staff matched their efforts and more with a second and third round in May and June. Thanks to your generous support, these most recent rounds built on the foundations of the first, which focused on essentials (think cloth masks, healthy snacks) for younger Club members. What remained the same—and what was perhaps the most important piece of the kit—a personal delivery by Club staff.

That “special delivery” is the little slice of happiness everyone craves, especially youth who’ve been so removed from the people, places, and things they knew best. These doorstep drop-offs delivered that connection BGCC Clubs are expert at nurturing with youth across Chicago.

The third round of kits were just recently delivered to high school members (ages 14–18) over the weekend of June 19. And as the city as a whole prepares to celebrate summer in Chicago, so do the contents of these kits. Teens will be able to track their thoughts in a journal with daily topics, explore their creative side with canvas and paints, and make a groovy fashion statement with a tie-dye T-shirt set. Included with these enrichment activities are basic essentials too many Club teens too often go without, like healthy snacks and personal hygiene products.

This latest round follows closely behind the second wave of kits, which were targeted to middle school-aged Club members (ages 11-14).

"Above all, we want these kits to be fun, and a feel a sense of achievement,” said Vicki Lee, BGCC’s Chief Academic Officer. "We want our Club members to enjoy these kits and feel good about completing the included crafts and activities."

With Proms Canceled, BGCC Steps Up for Teen Members to Host a Virtual Prom 

The dresses. The tuxes. The corsages, promposals, and parents insisting on taking way too many pictures. Prom and its traditions have been a rite of passage for generations of high school students. So when the pandemic canceled the annual dances at schools across Chicago this spring, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago stepped up to host a Virtual Prom event for its high school junior and senior members.

Over 60 attendees dialed into the private event, held in a Zoom video meeting room on the last Friday evening of May. BGCC staff designed the evening’s program, which included trivia, contests for categories like Best Dressed and Best Dancer, guest DJ slots, and appearances by Chicago celebrities.

"BGCC has always supported students and making a virtual prom is a great way to cheer us up!” said 18-year-old BGCC member Janet O. “It was so fun to see everyone dress up!"

Speaking of dressing up, the winner of the popular vote for Best Dressed was Allegra, a True Value Club member and high school senior attending college in the fall at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Best Dancer was awarded to Darin from the Pedersen-McCormick Club (our prose could not begin to do justice for the grace, style, and sophistication Darin put on display!)

However, this fall, should a certain football player, from a certain team, from a certain town perform a touchdown dance of equal measure, there’s a good chance that touchdown was scored by Chicago Bears safety Deon Bush, one of the Virtual Prom’s very special guests! 

More celebrity guests surprised Club members by popping into the prom, like Sean Mac, a WGCI-FM DJ; and Leon Rogers, host of The WGCI-FM Morning Show and of Later with Leon on Fox 32 Chicago.

And while a spontaneous, fully choreographed group dance did NOT break out at Virtual Prom like in a 90s teen movie, the evening made meaningful memories for Club members and staff. It might not have been the prom those seniors had imagined when they were high school freshman. But for a few hours, on a beautiful Friday night in the city, when they were unable to hug their friends, dance with their dates, or crowd into a photo booth to pose with their crew, these youth were able to dream as if they were. Even in this digital, socially distant way, Virtual Prom captured the best elements of the best school dances: bringing together people who care about each other to laugh, move, support, and celebrate the community they’ve created together.

A Special Event for BGCC to Collaborate with the Art Institute of Chicago

The recent online collaboration between the Art Institute of Chicago and BGCC might never have been possible without Keana Ingram.

Keana (KJ) Ingram, the Club Director at BGCC’s Brunson Club, had been nurturing conversations with contacts at the iconic museum for months, hoping to book a collaborative Club event that would enrich the lives of her members. And while talks developed, nothing quite got off the ground. As unlikely as it might seem, the pandemic’s unique, socially distant circumstances perhaps offered the greatest opportunity—the chance for an online event.

Since the stay-at-home order began in March, Ingram had been facilitating Virtual Club programming for her members at the Brunson Club. And over the weeks, Ingram and her staff worked hard to establish an online connection with their Club members. It was a tricky process, where she and her staff experimented with youth development programming in the new digital-only setting. She and her staff tried engaging youth with different programming types, formats, cadences, and more. It really was uncharted territory, which was perhaps the perfect prompt for a bold, new idea.

One such idea was this online collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, which called for introducing members to art in which they might see themselves reflected or their experiences portrayed—art by local artists and artists of color.

"I wanted this event to be fun and relatable for our Club families," Ingram said. "We have many talented artists at our Club and I hoped they would encounter art that they would identify with."

Ingenuity. Dedication. An openness and a willingness to try new things to reach more members. This is the spirit of positive youth development that, with your support, we nurture in our Clubs—both physical and now virtual—and that we see embodied in inspirational Club leaders like Ingram.

BGCC staff help a struggling family 

With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic creating unprecedented challenges for our Club members and their families, BGCC remains steadfast in our efforts to stay connected and serve as a resource during these trying times. BGCC developed innovative programming and built new partnerships to direct resources to our neediest families. This has included regular phone check-ins with families to address concerns and provide assurance amidst the new and compounded challenges they’re facing.

Personalized attention makes a difference. During a routine wellness call, CC’s Little Village Boys & Girls Club staff member Luis Jimon learned that a Club family was struggling to make ends meet and desperately needed diapers. Jimon quickly reached out to fellow staff member, Guadalupe Delgado, and the two put together a plan to get the much-needed supplies to the Club family. “They are a family of 9 who’ve been struggling since their father could not work,” explains Delgado. “They desperately needed diapers for their 9-month-old and 18-month-old babies." When Jimon asked if there was anything else they needed, the mother asked if we also had any secondhand clothing for her 18-month-old baby.

Delgado and Jimon immediately devised a plan and divided up a list of local stores. At times, they each had to wait in line up to 45 minutes while following mandated safety guidelines so they could purchase essentials for the family in crisis.

When Jimon arrived with the supplies, the family could not have been more thankful. They texted photos and messages of gratitude. Delgado said, “I was grateful that I was able to help our Club family. If I am able to help any of our Club members, I will do whatever I can to help.”

Every day our services and programs continue to make a difference in the lives of Chicago’s neediest families. Thanks to you, BGCC can continue to serve our Club members, overcoming unprecedented challenges together. Because of you, our Clubs, even while closed, continue to be life-changing, life-saving, and life-long. Thank you for giving our children A Club for Life at home!

BGCC's Emergency Fund Provides Critical Support 

In March, when the coronavirus forced our Clubs to close and the fundraising events we rely on to be postponed indefinitely, the future looked uncertain. One committed donor reached out with a plan, to launch an Emergency Fund, to ensure Clubs continue to serve our kids when they need us most. To establish this fund and inspire others to support it, this donor generously offered to match every gift made up to $250,000 to help BGCC during this time of need.

Countless supporters responded to the call for support. Thanks to you, BGCC was able to launch its Emergency Fund, and the fund is already providing critical relief to our members. Just last week, over 4,400 meals and snacks were distributed by our Clubs to hungry families.

Your support is making it possible for another 500 A Club for Home kits to be dropped at our children’s doorsteps. These kits will be filled with educational essentials like school supplies, hygiene products, snacks and educational materials. They’ll even include select games and crafts to make sure our Club members are finding time to have fun. We will continue to distribute kits to members in the weeks ahead.

Since launching our Virtual Club, over 1,200 youth have enrolled and are engaged in our activities. Your support makes it possible for us to expand our curriculum and offer mentorship in new and innovative ways.

None of this work is possible without you. Thank you to everyone who generously supported our Emergency Fund and for giving our boys and girls hope during these challenging times.

Ann Milligan Gray Scholarship and Woman’s Board Scholarship recipients 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago (BGCC) is proud to announce the recipients of our 2020 Ann Milligan Gray Scholarship and BGCC Woman’s Board Scholarships!

For decades, the Woman’s Board has been dedicated to seeing Chicago’s teens advance through college with scholarship support from their BGCC family.  To date, these two scholarship programs have awarded over 100 scholarships, totaling more than $4.5 million in funding for deserving youth to pursue higher education.

After a rigorous interview process – conducted virtually this year – seven outstanding Club members were awarded this year’s scholarships. Allegra H., who has been named the prestigious 2020 Ann Milligan Gray Scholar, said, “Winning this scholarship made my family and Club staff proud. I am so grateful for the wonderful opportunity to honor the legacy of Ann Milligan Gray, and to show what’s possible through Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.”

The six 2020 Woman’s Board Scholarship awardees are Adrianne H., Ania S., Carla K., Evelyn H., Harriet C., and Jose C. These scholars epitomize what it means to be a dedicated Club member, working tirelessly at school and at their Clubs to make their dreams of attending college a reality. Along with each of these scholars, we are incredibly grateful for the support of our outstanding Woman’s Board who help make these great futures possible.

“When I received the Woman’s Board scholarship, I was speechless and so excited that I was chosen, but all I could think about were the Club staff and members who have helped me these past 11 years to become who I am today.” Jose C., Boys & Girls Club member

Thanks to support from friends like you, hundreds of our teens are on the road to success after high school. Congratulations to our 2020 scholarship winners, and to each of our graduating seniors on all of their accomplishments.

A Club for Home

For young people around the city, the move to at-home learning has presented new challenges. Our Club members, living in some of the most economically challenged communities in Chicago, don’t have even the most basic school supplies at home to work on activities and assignments.

Thanks to your support, though, BGCC staff were able to respond quickly by assembling and delivering over 500 A Club for Home kits. These kits were filled with essentials from crayons and construction paper to healthy snacks and cloth face masks. They even included some games to make sure our Club members were finding time to have a little fun.

"It was important that we connected with our members in a meaningful way during these uncertain times. We wanted our actions to have real impact and to let our Club families know that their Clubs are with them," said Katie Rutkowski, BGCC Director of Executive Operations.

BGCC supporters Power Crunch and GLAM 4 GOOD contributed goods included in the first wave of kits, and BGCC plans to deliver 1,000 more with additional health and hygiene items thanks to recent donations from Ulta Beauty, GoGo squeeze, Pepsi and US Cellular.

"Think about when you were a kid, how fun it was to receive a package. Our hope is that we can provide essentials, but also that feeling of excitement and hope that so many of our members truly need during these difficult times," said Jason Vasquez, BGCC Manager of Corporate and Volunteer Relations

Club members definitely were excited to find their very own kit on their doorstep.

"We don't have many art supplies or books at my house, so the Club for Home kit is going to be so much fun!" - Sean, age 9, BGCC member.

BGCC's Virtual Club 

With Club members throughout the city sheltering in place, BGCC launched a Virtual Club to bring the Club experience they’ve come to love and rely on into their homes. Online programming is connecting youth to the mentorship and engaging activities that remain the hallmark of Clubs and their out-of-school programming.  

Recently, BGCC’s Virtual Club celebrated our city’s dedicated first responders. Daily activities taught our Club members about the impact these individuals make in our community, while also offering youth the opportunity to show gratitude for their sacrifice. The programming, designed to be universal and age-specific, served as the perfect springboard for young minds to explore career options, and just what it means to be called a “first responder.”

“Our goal is to create meaningful programming that truly engages our members. We asked our Club members to think about their own life and remember a time when they had to help someone,” explains Vicki Lee, BGCC’s Chief Academic Officer. “This was why we featured first responders. They are a universal theme because every single person can connect to how an experience with a first responder, on various levels, has affected either their own life or someone they know.”

Our online programming efforts continue to connect us with our Club members and keep the spirit of our Clubs alive! Our BGCC staff is working hard to ensure our Virtual Club helps our Club members grow and learn, but also provides them with some much-needed FUN!

Thank you to all of the incredible first responders and essential workers for all they continue to do!

HBCU "Virtual" College Tour 

School looks very different these days, so BGCC is working with teens to keep their focus their future educational goals. In 2019, Will Edmondson, the James R. Jordan Club Program Director, led a group of 10 BGCC high school seniors on an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) tour. They toured Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD and Howard University in Washington DC. It was an eye-opening experience for the teens, and for many it was their first time visiting any college or university. 

Our Club teens came prepared with questions for the admissions staff and tour guides. The young people were actively engaged in the tours and gathered a lot of pertinent information. As a result of the tour, one of our members applied to, and was accepted at Morgan State University. 

Seeing what a powerful impact this tour had on our youth, Edmondson went to work raising the necessary funds to return in 2020. He was successfully meeting his fundraising goals and had a committed group of Club teens eager to participate. Once it became apparent the kids wouldn’t be able to go on the original trip as planned due to COVID-19, HBCU quickly adapted the tours, which took place virtually this past weekend. 15 of our Club teens participated in the online event, showcasing 18 HBCU schools. The virtual tour informed attendees on each school's campus, academic opportunities, and admission process. It also allowed for a Q&A with each college/university represented. 

"One way to increase the number of students from disadvantaged neighborhoods to enroll in postsecondary education is to expose them to college life. The HBCU virtual tour is equipping our members with the tools they need to understand the college enrollment process."– Will Edmondson, Jordan Club Program Director