boys and girls club

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.


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.


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.

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.

medical science

A Look at 10 AHA-Backed Research Breakthroughs

AmericanHeartAssociationOver the course of nearly 100 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) has maintained a commitment to fighting heart disease and stroke by educating health professionals and the general public about the best ways to improve cardiovascular health. The organization’s work is also largely focused on supporting and advancing cardiovascular research. Since its inception in 1924, the AHA has invested over $4.1 billion into research projects and initiatives, which is more than any other US-based nonprofit organization.

Over the years, the AHA’s funding has supported a number of research breakthroughs in the areas of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Many of these research breakthroughs have helped to improve global health by advancing understanding and/or treatment of heart- and vascular-related issues. In order to provide a better understanding of the AHA’s impact on health care worldwide, here is a brief look at 10 groundbreaking research projects that were backed by funding from the AHA:


  1. Study on Diuretics and Blood Pressure

In 1949, AHA-funded research helped Dr. Alfred Farah to pioneer the study of how diuretics affect heart and kidney function. His research into diuretics, which help to control blood pressure by ridding the body of excess water and sodium, led to advancements in the pharmacological treatment of heart disease. Diuretics are still considered one of the best classes of drugs for controlling blood pressure and treating heart failure.


  1. Research on Dietary Fat and Cholesterol

Before the 1950s, there was little understanding of the link between dietary fat and serum cholesterol levels. This changed after the AHA backed research led by Dr. Ancel Keys, a physiologist who spearheaded what has become known as the Seven Countries Study. The study linked fat and cholesterol for the first time and led to dietary recommendations that remain in place today.



  1. Pacemaker Research

The earliest advancements in pacemaker technology and research were supported by the AHA. In 1957, Dr. William Weirich used the first pacemaker to treat a patient with heart blockage. His work on early battery-operated wearable pacemakers led to the creation of today’s fully implanted pacemaker devices.


  1. Artificial Heart Valves

In addition to pacemakers, the AHA helped to support the advancement of artificial heart valves, which were first developed by Dr. Albert Starr and Lowell Edwards. The pair’s work in the 1960s has had long-lasting effects. Over the years, the Starr-Edwards valve, which is still used today to help people with diseased heart valves, has saved millions of lives.


  1. CPR Research

Widely known as the fathers of CPR, physicians James Jude, Guy Knickerbocker, and William Kouwenhoven pioneered the use of external cardiac massage with the support of AHA funding. Research into the lifesaving potential of CPR was first reported in 1961 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


  1. Advancement of Microsurgery

Used across a range of surgical disciplines, microsurgery was first performed by Dr. Julius Jacobson in the early 1960s. His work, which was funded in part by the AHA, has led to widespread advancements in surgical practices.


  1. The Work of Biochemist Mildred Cohn

For 14 years, the AHA provided funding to support the research activities of Mildred Cohn, the AHA’s first female career investigator. Cohn was a pioneer in the use of new technologies to study and measure organic chemical changes. Her work as a biochemist contributed greatly to the understanding of nuclear magnetic resonance. It also led to the development of new medical technologies, including nuclear magnetic resonance, which remains one of the most advanced imaging methods in use today.


  1. Blood Pressure Research

With the help of AHA funding, Dr. Maurice Sokolow led a 20-year study that examined the effects of high blood pressure. The results of his study, which were published in 1966, showed that chronic high blood pressure reduces one’s life expectancy and can lead to various complications affecting the heart and other areas of the body. Dr. Sokolow also designed and built one of the first portable blood pressure recorders, which helped to advance later blood pressure studies.


blood pressure


  1. Children’s Heart Health

In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat respiratory distress syndrome, which affects premature infants with defects of the heart and lungs. The drug, Exosurf Neonatal, was developed by Dr. John Clements, who served as an AHA Career Investigator for decades. In later years, the AHA continued its work in the area of children’s heart health by partnering with the Children’s Heart Foundation to provide $22.5 million for research into congenital heart defects.


  1. Study on Oxygen and Physiology Function

Over the years, the AHA has supported several researchers who went on to earn the Nobel Prize for their work. One of the most recent is Dr. Gregg L. Semenza, a John Hopkins University researcher who received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discoveries related to the interplay between cell metabolism, physiological function, and oxygen availability. Since 1993, Dr. Semenza’s Nobel Prize-winning work has been supported by funding from the AHA.


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.


Pursuing Social Good – A Look at the History of Goodwill Industries

Now in its second century of operation, Goodwill Industries has a history dating back to the first years of the 1900s. Today, the organization is stronger than ever as it works to help individuals and families attain better futures through the power of work. Read on for an overview of Goodwill’s history and to get a closer look at how the organization continues to improve lives throughout the United States and other countries around the world.


Reverend Edgar J. Helms and Goodwill’s Beginnings

goodwill logoLaunched through the efforts of one man, Goodwill was established in 1902 when a Boston-based Methodist minister named Edgar J. Helms began a system of collecting items from Boston’s wealthy residents and repairing them for resale to those who were less fortunate. Reverend Helms hired people in need to help with the repair and resale of the items he collected, giving rise to a self-help system that continues at Goodwill Industries today.

As Helms expanded his program, the repairing and reselling grew to include not only clothing but also furniture and other household goods. In Boston, this work was performed early on under the name of Morgan Memorial Industries and Stores. This name came from the Unitarian Church’s multidenominational Henry Morgan Memorial Chapel, which Helms led in Boston’s South End. Later, the Unitarian Church withdrew its support for the project, and Helms moved his next self-help operation to Brooklyn, New York, where the Goodwill Industries name was first used.


Goodwill Expands Nationwide and Beyond

With the success of his early efforts to help those in need, Helms took his message of “not a charity, but a chance” to other areas of the country. By the 1920s, Goodwill Industries had opened in US cities outside of the East Coast, including Cleveland, Denver, and Los Angeles.

As the number of Goodwill centers in the United States grew, Helms toured the world, visiting Europe, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East with his self-help idea. This laid the groundwork for what would become Goodwill Industries International, which now has a presence in 12 countries outside of the United States and Canada.

While the Great Depression changed Goodwill Industries’ direction in the US, the organization was still able to grow while other nonprofit groups failed because it depended on donations of goods rather than cash. In the 1930s, Goodwill Industries was thriving in over five dozen US cities and several communities outside of the country.


Goodwill’s Work in the Mid-1900s

In 1942, Reverend Edgar J. Helms died, but not before seeing the promising beginnings of what would become the thriving network of more than 150 community-based organizations that Goodwill Industries is today. During the remainder of the 1940s, the nonprofit group played an important role in assisting with the World War II home front effort by helping returning servicemen and servicewomen find gainful employment after combat.

Throughout the 1950s, the Goodwill network continued to grow, and the organization began to play a leading role in providing jobs to people living with disabilities. The 1950s also saw the majority of Goodwill agencies become self-supporting and nondenominational, moving away from the Methodist Church.

As the 1960s arrived, Goodwill stepped up its activities employing people with disabilities. Between 1960 and 1966, the organization increased the percentage of employees with developmental and/or physical disabilities from 32 percent to 42 percent. The 1960s also saw the adoption of the now-iconic “Smiling G” logo, which is still used today.


Featured Image by Mike Mozart | Flickr

Entering the Modern Era

After the nation’s first Goodwill drop-off donation center opened in the early 1970s, the organization entered a new era of accepting and selling household goods while putting underserved individuals to work. Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Goodwill Industries expanded its employee population to include people with employment barriers such as lack of education, criminal history, and advanced age. During this time, the group also began to incorporate high-tech training programs into its offerings alongside those focused on basic skills development.

Another big event in Goodwill’s history came in 1999, when the organization launched its e-commerce website, which was the country’s first nonprofit online auction site. With the opening of the new millennium, Goodwill also continued to expand its traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

The number of member organizations during this time grew worldwide, providing more revenue to support programs focused on career training and job placement for people of limited employability. This work continues today as Goodwill seeks to help more people find success in the 21st century.


Goodwill Looks to the Future

What began with an innovative idea about how to help those in need has grown into a $6 billion organization with a reach extending into communities across the United States and several other countries. Over 115 years after its founding, Goodwill is looking to the future with programs and services focused on equipping people with 21st-century skills. Currently, the group is working with corporate partners such as Google, Accenture, and Indeed to provide digital skills training and other services to help people attain employment, enhance their resumes, and build their careers in the modern workplace.