Ward attracts large crowd for the Boys & Girls Club fund-raiser
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Charlie Ward didn’t think twice when he received a request to be keynote speaker for the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Bend.
The event held this past Saturday was the biggest fund-raiser for the organization, but Ward decided to lend his brand to the event for an even more important reason.
The club’s mission of making a positive change on young people’s life was enough for him to help out, Ward said.
“It’s definitely something our kids need; an outlet,” Ward said. “Kids at risk need an outlet because the environment they (live) in may not be cultivating success.
“What they probably see a lot of is the crime; drugs and that type of thing.”
Those kinds in troubled neighborhoods are exactly where the Boys & Girls Club is nestled. The organization serve seven different areas, including the Sunrise Apartments.
The Housing Authority property is located on Texas Street, an area on the south side of Tallahassee where the crime rate is one of the highest in the city. But since the program was set up in the area, there has been a marked difference in crime within the complex, said Kacy Dennis and Jake Hatcher, two of the club’s directors.
“Parents come up to me and thank us for having a safe place for their kids,” Dennis said. “The apartment manager has also come up to let us know we are making it a safe area.”
They know it’s an on-going battle, though.
“A lot them are struggling,” said Lee Wagner, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Bend. “We try to be there to provide guidance, hope and inspiration to let them know that regardless of the circumstances, there is hope.”
Mario Durant, a fourth-grader at Bond Middle School, said he enjoys having the club in the Sunrise complex. He and at least 40 other young people spent a lot of his time this summer participating in activities that he said helped him fight off boredom.
Ward, who played quarterback at FSU, helped to carry the Seminoles to a national title in 1992. He also spent 11 years in the NBA.
Ward’s drawing power was obvious by the crowd of 400 that came out to hear his message. The turnout should generate about $20,000, organizers said
“I’m grateful that I’m able to bring people in to help with the cause,” Ward said. “That’s one of the things. We all have a gift and one of the gifts that I have is being able to bring people to a certain environment. It’s not something I aspired to be but people wanted to come and see me perform. I use it to benefit others.”