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Here Are the Top Character and Leadership Programs at BGCA

boysandgirlsclubOver the course of its 150-plus-year history, Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has built a full suite of programs designed to help kids and teens excel in school and lead healthy, productive lives. With more than 4,600 Clubs in US cities and military installations worldwide, the organization offers programs in various areas, including education, health and wellness, sports, and the arts. A core focus of BGCA’s work is on instilling character and leadership skills among its 4.7 million members.

BGCA’s efforts to create 21st-century leaders have been very successful. In fact, 75 percent of its regular members report having volunteered in their communities at least once in the previous year. Meanwhile, 41 percent of Club youth report volunteering at least once per month. In addition to volunteering their time, BGCA members demonstrate good character through their willingness to stand up for what is right while ensuring that those around them feel important.

The ultimate goal of BGCA’s character and leadership programs is to help youth become caring and responsible citizens with the decision-making and planning skills needed to contribute positively to their local Club and greater communities. Read on to learn more about these impactful programs and initiatives.

 

Keystone Club

Much of BGCA’s character and leadership work is carried out in its Keystone Clubs. Designed for youth ages 14 to 18, Keystone Club is a national program that focuses on service and leadership and gives participants the opportunity to volunteer in

their communities. Under the guidance of an adult supervisor, youth engage in activities aimed at academic success and career preparation.

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Along with after-school activities, Keystone Club members participate in the BGCA-hosted National Keystone Conference. This annual multi-day event brings teen leaders and adult advisors from across the country together for activities focused on various social issues. More than 1,500 people took part in the 2019 Keystone Conference, which covered a range of topics, including school violence, mental health, and gender identity.

The National Keystone Conference and Keystone Clubs across the country are supported in large part through the generosity of Aaron’s, Inc. In 2018, the lease-purchase retailer’s giving division, Aaron’s Foundation, renewed its partnership with Keystone Clubs and BGCA via a three-year, $5-million commitment. The money will be used to fund the Keystone Conference and provide renovations of Clubs nationwide.

 

Million Members, Million Hours of Service

As its name suggests, Million Members, Million Hours of Service (MMMHS) is a BGCA initiative that aims to engage 1 million Club members in 1 million hours of community service each year. In addition to helping Club youth become more productive, service-oriented citizens, MMMHS benefits participants by promoting positive relationships and assisting them in avoiding risky behavior. Studies have also shown that youth who engage in service perform better academically and are less likely to drop out of high school.

The list of BGCA partners that have supported MMMHS includes the Citi Foundation, a group that backed past signature service events such as United We Serve: Summer of Service. BGCA continues to host service activities as part of MMMHS, but Club members are encouraged to host their own service projects throughout the year.

 

Torch Club

Referred to as “the club within the Club,” Torch Club was created to help adolescents ages 11 to 13 develop leadership skills as well as good character and integrity. Boys and girls who participate in local Torch Club programs elect leadership officers and work together to organize and implement various activities. These activities focus on service to Club and community, health and fitness, social recreation, and education. Torch Club members across the country are also invited to engage in a service-learning experience as part of the annual National Torch Club Project.

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Corporate supporters of Torch Club include Old Navy, which raises money for the national program via its annual back-to-school donation drive. In addition, Old Navy employees volunteer their time to Torch Clubs nationwide. Samsung Electronics America is also a Torch Club supporter. Each year, the company sponsors the Climate Superstars Challenge, which has eligible Torch Clubs competing to win Samsung products.

 

Youth of the Year

Since its beginnings as a grassroots initiative in the late 1940s, Youth of the Year has grown to become BGCA’s signature leadership development program. To become the Youth of the Year, a Club teen must advance through local, state, and regional events. Winners are chosen because they exemplify the BGCA mission and showcase the organization’s ability to help youth reach their full potential as responsible, productive, and caring citizens.

In addition to selecting one exceptional Club member as the National Youth of the Year, Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide involve more members in the program as part of its Youth of the Month component. Meanwhile, younger Club members ages 11 to 13 are recognized through the Junior Youth of the Year program.

In 2019, six outstanding young men and women were chosen as finalists for National Youth of the Year. The award was ultimately given to Sabrina M., a Barnard College freshman who has been a Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco member for over 12 years. She was honored during a special gala and celebration dinner in Washington, DC, and will now serve as the national teen spokesperson for Club youth.

 

Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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This Is What You Need to Know about the Purple Heart Medal

In 1957, the Purple Heart Foundation was established as the fundraising arm of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), a congressionally chartered veterans organization comprising a membership body of Purple Heart recipients. Today, the Foundation and MOPH continue to oversee and support a range of programs that help veterans recover and prosper following military service.

To gain a better appreciation of these two organizations and the decorated military members they serve, take a look at these 10 facts about the Purple Heart medal:

 

  1. The Purple Heart is the oldest military honor in the US.

While it took many more years to evolve into its current look and name, the Purple Heart has a history dating back to the 1780s. Its predecessor, the Badge of Military Merit, was established by President George Washington in 1782. After the medal fell into disuse, General Douglas MacArthur led efforts to revive the honor in the early 1930s, creating the modern-day Purple Heart.

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  1. The medal was first awarded during the Revolutionary War.

Elijah Churchill and William Brown of the Continental Army are most commonly credited as being the first Purple Heart recipients. Of course, the two soldiers received the honor under its original title, the Badge of Military Merit. The first modern-day Purple Heart was awarded to the man who helped create it, General Douglas MacArthur.

 

  1. It was the first military award for lower-ranking soldiers.

Prior to the establishment of the Purple Heart’s predecessor, military honors were typically reserved for officers credited with significant victories in battle. President Washington created the Badge of Military Merit specifically to honor the outstanding service of enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers among his troops.

 

  1. Animals are among the list of Purple Heart recipients.

In its long history, the Purple Heart has been awarded to four-legged recipients. During WWI, a dog named Stubby was awarded two Purple Hearts for his actions with the 102nd Infantry Regiment. A horse named Reckless also received the honor twice for wounds she incurred during the Korean War. Military service animals aren’t currently eligible for the Purple Heart, however.

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  1. Many well-known individuals have received the honor.

Over the years, the Purple Heart has been bestowed upon many people who are well-known for their civilian achievements. This includes politicians such as John Kerry and John McCain, writers and filmmakers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Oliver Stone, and actors such as Charles Bronson and James Garner.

 

  1. The Purple Heart has been awarded to only one US president.

Politicians at all levels of government are among the list of Purple Heart recipients. However, the list of US presidents who have earned the honor contains only one individual: John F. Kennedy.

As a Navy reserve lieutenant during WWII, Kennedy was injured during a boat collision near the Solomon Islands. Despite the injury to his back, he managed to swim to shore and save another soldier. In addition to the Purple Heart, Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for this act.

 

  1. More Purple Hearts were awarded during WWII than any other conflict.

John F. Kennedy is among a large group of over 1 million people who earned the Purple Heart for their actions during WWII. In total, 1.07 million of the medals were awarded during the war, which is more than all that were awarded in all other 20th-century conflicts combined.

 

  1. Purple Hearts weren’t always reserved exclusively for injured or mortally wounded service members.

Today, the Purple Heart medal is only awarded to military personnel who are injured or killed during a hostile encounter with enemy forces, but this wasn’t always the case. Originally, the honor could be bestowed on anyone who provided a “meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity” during military action, regardless of whether or not they were injured.

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  1. The record for the most Purple Hearts awarded to one individual is in the double digits.

Although a number of service members have earned more than one Purple Heart, the record for the most Purple Hearts in US military history belongs to Curry T. Haynes. During the Vietnam War, the member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the 503rd Army Infantry received a series of injuries that later earned him 10 Purple Hearts. Haynes’ injuries occurred as the result of gunfire, grenades, and a B-40 rocket.

 

  1. Purple Heart Day honors Purple Heart recipients.

On August 7, government agencies, current and former service members, veterans’ organizations, and other groups come together to take part in National Purple Heart Day, which was first observed in 2014. This special day of observance gives people the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices of the men and women who have been injured or killed while serving their country. Ways to get involved include attending an event or donating to groups such as the Purple Heart Foundation.

 

Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

A Look at the Latest News from Wounded Warrior Project

wounded warrior projectAs one of the nation’s most active and well-known military service organizations, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) never stops working to improve the lives of military veterans and their families. Recently, WWP and its supporters have advanced a number of causes benefitting the military community. Read on for a closer look at some of the organization’s latest news and activities.

 

San Antonio Hosts WWP Carry Forward 5K

In early October, more than 2,000 WWP supporters gathered in San Antonio’s Mission County Park for the third WWP Carry Forward event of 2019. The 5K, which occurred on October 5, attracted volunteers from states as far away as Alabama. During the event, participants completed the 5K while carrying a flag, weights, or another person.

The number of runners who have collectively supported Carry Forward in 2019 so far exceeds 5,000, which includes the San Antonio participants. In addition to raising awareness of veteran issues, Carry Forward 5K events raise much-needed funds for a variety of programs and services benefitting military families.

 

Freedom Fest Raises Thousands for Wounded Veterans

Throughout the year, individuals and organizations nationwide host independent events to raise money for WWP’s work. One of the fastest-growing of these fundraisers is Freedom Fest, an event that takes place annually in Greenville, Virginia.

Hosted at Greenville’s Stoney Creek Resort and Campground, Freedom Fest was launched in 2016 by Dan Murray, Gloria Shephard, and Joe Murray. The event has grown over the years to attract thousands of participants for a weekend of activities that focus on honoring and supporting military veterans and their families.

The fourth annual Freedom Fest took place in October 2019. More than 4,000 people, many from hundreds of miles away, attended. The event raised over $67,000 for WWP programs and services, which are provided to veterans and military families free of charge.

 

Wounded Warrior Veterans Climb in Lake Tahoe

Recently, several veterans with PTSD accepted the challenge of climbing the 1,000-foot Tram Face in Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley. The climb was led by guides at Alpenglow Expeditions and was held as part of a WWP Project Odyssey mental health workshop.

A unique mental health program, Project Odyssey seeks to help veterans and their families recharge, rediscover, and re-engage through outdoor retreat activities and follow-up support. Retreat activities include challenges such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, and rock climbing.

The retreat in Lake Tahoe was a Project Odyssey couples activity, which focuses on helping veterans and their spouses to reconnect and build communication. The climb up Tram Face was one of several activities that couples took part in during the workshop. They also enjoyed a bike ride, yoga, and art activities. Following Project Odyssey retreats, WWP provides participants with three months of follow-up that is focused on goal setting and continued positive growth.

 

WWP Renews Support for Team Red, White & Blue and Other Groups

In addition to advancing its own programs and services, WWP provides ongoing support for a number of veteran and military service groups. In fact, since 2012, Wounded Warrior has provided over $85 million in grants to dozens of organizations. One of its longtime partners is Team Red White & Blue, which recently received a $250,000 WWP grant.

Announced in September 2019, the grant will support Team Red, White & Blue’s Chapter and Community Program. Through the program, the organization helps veterans to connect while taking part in physical and social activities. Team Red, White & Blue hosts thousands of activities each year, creating a nationwide network of active and socially engaged veterans.

Along with continuing its support of Team Red, White & Blue, WWP announced that it is providing grants to a number of additional organizations, as well. The list of partners includes Hiring Our Heroes, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, among several others.

 

WWP Grant Boosts Funding for Research on Toxic Exposure

In its efforts to promote the health and well-being of men and women who have served in combat, WWP raises awareness and funds for research on veteran-related illnesses and conditions. While much of this work is focused on PTSD and traumatic brain injury, the organization also advocates for veterans who have been affected by toxic exposure, an issue that ranks among WWP’s top legislative priorities.

To further advance this issue, WWP recently provided a $195,000 grant to support a collaborative partnership between the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the Veterans Health Council, and Vietnam Veterans of America. The partnership is focused on increasing public education and awareness of toxic exposure through various activities. The partnership also aims to increase research on toxic exposure and boost the number of organizations, veterans, and stakeholders that are advocating for the issue.

In the area of toxic exposure, WWP is also encouraging veterans of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and Southwest Asia to register for the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. Launched in 2014, the registry is being used by the VA to measure and raise awareness of health issues among veterans deployed to areas where burn pits were used.

 

Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional healthcare provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.