Generations gather together for the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club celebration.
By Kelly Knowles
WAKE FOREST — Generations of members gathered together Saturday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Boys and Girls Club of Wake Forest.
During a club-provided cookout, alumni and their children got to hang out, play basketball, and catch-up with old friends. Jessica Bullock, club director, said one of the most sought-after people at the event was now-retired Chesley Haywood, or ‘Chestnut’, as he was called by the kids, former long-time game room staff member. Hugh McLean, former club director, was also in attendance.
The Boys and Girls Club of Wake Forest, which opened in 1986, only had two club directors in its 30 years. With a foundation like that, Bullock said it was nice to be able to reminisce with club alumni, whose children now attend the club as well.
Braxton Reese, 14, a current club member, was one of those able to attend the anniversary celebration with a special alumna: his mother.
“It was good … my mom and I got to see a lot of people here that I didn’t know, that were actually staff members,” Reese said. “There was a lot of stuff I learned, like when she was going here this club wasn’t here, they were up at the seminary … So I got to learn new stuff about how this was actually built.”
Reese, who has received a scholarship through the club and Capital City Crew to play hockey in-house at The Factory, said the academic and athletic programs available at the club have meant a lot to him. He added that he likes coming to the club because he gets to be himself.
“It’s just a good experience,” said Reese.
Emily Pelliccia, current staff member who grew up through the club, said that the 30th anniversary was a cool experience. She said that it was nice to come back as an alumna and see her second home, where a lot of her childhood memories stemmed from.
Pelliccia met alumni who had come before her, and laughingly said that she got to see some of the people responsible for rules that were set in place when she was a member.
Danielle Thomas, Boys & Girls Club of Wake Forest’s Youth of the Year 2014, also enjoyed hearing stories from former alumni.
“The club seemed to change with time and (with) the kids, but one thing did stay the same, and that was the club’s service to its youth,” said Thomas.
The Boys & Girls Club’s mission is to give every kid an opportunity to reach their full potential and prepare them for life after graduation through education and career development, healthy lifestyle learning, and civic engagement: to teach kids how to give back to the community.
Thomas shared that to her, the club has been so much more than a place to go after school.
“The Boys & Girls Club helped shape me into the person I am today,” she said. “My favorite part of the Club is that every kid has a way that they can excel and show off their skills.”
She continued on to say that without it, she would not have had nearly as many opportunities as she was given during her 11 years with them, and that gratitude now inspires her to give back to those people.
Children can become members of the club from age 6-14, and according to wakebgc.org, they can renew their membership until high school graduation.
Bullock said the group of ‘her kids’ that graduated this year, started at the club when she did, 13 years ago.
“It’s amazing to watch them grow,” Bullock said. “I mean seriously, six and seven year olds … when you’re trying to tell them not to throw crayons, to … helping them write essays and get résumés ready for college.”
Bullock said she wanted to take the chance to thank the people in Wake Forest for their strong support of the club.
“I cannot imagine doing this job without the individuals and groups that are here,” said Bullock. “I look forward to the next 30 years.”