By Terry Rogers
On Friday, March 11, supporters of the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club filled Milford Bowling Lanes in order to raise money for the organization. According to Tod Van Eyken, Executive Director of the club, the event has grown significantly over the past few years.
“This is our 14th year,” Mr. Van Eyken said. “When we first started the event, we only filled about half the lanes. Now, the bowling alley is closed to the public because we fill every lane. It is one of three big events we hold throughout the year along with KidFest and our 5k.” Mr. Van Eyken said that the event was initially created by Mark McDaniel, Assistant Principal at Milford Central Academy. This year, Brennan Fountain of Carlisle Fire Company was the chairman of the event.
Mr. Van Eyken said that the funds raised through the Bowl-A-Thon were used to provide scholarships to youth whose families were unable to afford membership at the club. He said that the budget for scholarships for this year was $50,000, but it was anticipated that they would actually spend at least $60,000 to provide assistance to families who wanted to attend. He hoped to add $70,000 in scholarships for 2017.
“This can be the difference between a child attending and not attending,” Mr. Van Eyken said. “Families with multiple children may have difficulty affording the programs at the club. We never want to lose a child because of money so we hold these events so every child who wants to attend our club is able to do so.”
Karen Brittingham, who is raising her two grandchildren, said that they have been attending the club for over two years and that she could not say enough about how important the club was in their lives.
“I am trying to limit the adjectives I would like to use to describe the Boys & Girls Club,” Mrs. Brittingham said. “I actually have a hard time getting them to come home. The club provides them with many activities both at the club and outside. They are exposed to things that we could not possibly expose them to, such as flag football and other sports. My granddaughter says that the club has shown her that sports are not just for boys and that girls can do just as much as the boys can.” She said the children also participate in chorus and volunteered at the event as well.
In addition to providing daily guidance and mentoring, the Club offers structured programming throughout the year which has supported improved academic performance and attendance of Milford Club kids in local elementary, middle and high schools. Celebrating eight years in their new location off Airport Road in Milford, the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club has increased its efforts to establish the Milford Club as a community center in the Greater Milford Area. The Club offers a full size fitness center, adult basketball and pickleball leagues and water aerobic classes. The Richard Y. Johnson Aquatic Center is also home to the Milford High School Buccaneers Swim Team, the Club’s own Milford Marlins Swim Team and is the only Boys & Girls Club in Delaware to offer swimming scholarships through the Michael Phelps Foundation.
Many of the children who attend the Boys & Girls Club were volunteering at the event, including Ciera Brittingham, Mrs. Brittingham’s granddaughter. She said that she loved attending the club.
“We can do different things like football,” Ms. Brittingham said. “I really like ALA (American Lung Association). We teach kids at the club not to smoke cigarettes or marijuana so that they don’t get cancer. I like how the staff is not rude or mean to us. They help us with homework and they make all the events fun.”