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Their club is their castle: March 23-29 is National Boys and Girls Club Week

Kathryn Halvorson, Allison Flatau and Kadin Anderson pose for a quick picture in the ‘cup castle’ they built before gleefully knocking it down and starting all over. Marie Johnson/FOCUS

Nearly three years in, the Boys and Girls Club of the Perham area is still going strong.

“We have good program leaders, a great advisory board, a nice partnership with the school, huge community support, and we’re always getting new kids,” said the club’s Director, Cori Brown, in an interview last week. “It’s good. It’s really good.”

Since launching in June 2011, the after-school kids’ club has quadrupled in membership – from 51 kids in the beginning to about 200 now – and expanded out of its original location in the basement of Calvary Lutheran Church into a larger, newly renovated space in the former Perham hospital building.

The club has also added summer and before-school programming, as well as additional staff to accommodate the higher numbers of kids.

Currently, there are 14 program leaders who work with kids ages five to 18 on academics, character-building, leadership, and health and fitness.

“I love the Boys and Girls Club,” said one of those program leaders, Melissa Arndt, with genuine enthusiasm. “I can’t wait to get to work every day. I enjoy being with the kids.”

Arndt said she’s seen the club work wonders for kids, not only helping them with schoolwork and providing them with a safe and fun place to play, but also teaching them how to care for each other and the community.

“We get them interacting with us and each other,” she said. “They learn to be kind to one another.”

Through partnerships with Perham Living, 4-H and other community groups, plus special guest speakers who visit the club, the kids learn how to interact with people of all ages. They’re also constantly learning new skills. The club regularly provides opportunities for kids to sew, create arts and crafts, exercise, garden, and volunteer within the community.

Then, of course, there’s the ever-popular activity: play.

A quick look around the room during playtime last Friday afternoon revealed just how much fun the kids in Boys and Girls Club have.

Some young boys were grouped around a big-screen TV, playing sports games on a Wii, while a few girls sat at a table, talking and making crafts.

“I made a baby, mama, and daddy caterpillar,” seven-year-old Allison Flatau said proudly of what she did during arts and crafts time that day. Art is one of her favorite things about Boys and Girls Club, she said, though games are a close second.

Flatau and her friend, Cailyn Greisen, also 7, said their favorite game to play together is Quelf Junior, a board game that blends kids’ trivia with silly charades-like stunts.

In the next room, several kids were playing computer games and laughing it up, as a handful of others made a big, colorful ‘castle’ out of stacked plastic cups, then gleefully knocked it over.

And off in another room, a large group of kids were enjoying a rare treat at the club – a movie, Disney’s “Frozen,” which they were all ecstatic about. The kids were having such a good time that many of them didn’t want to leave when their parents came to get them.

“Daaaaad, did you have to pick me up during ‘Frozen?’ asked one distraught young boy as his father tried to get him to put on his coat and go home.

When it’s not free-time, kids enjoy planned events such as SMART Moves drug and alcohol prevention activities, a Taekwondo demonstration, puppeteer presentation, physical fitness time with Perham Living residents, and more.

“It’s something different every day,” Brown said.

“Things seem to change all the time, and it just keeps growing,” said program leader Shirley Umberger. 

Fundraiser at Spanky’s next Thursday

To celebrate the Boys and Girls Club’s successes and garner support for the club’s future, a fundraiser will be held on Thursday, April 3, at Spanky’s Stone Hearth in Frazee.

Cocktails will be served starting at 5:30 p.m., with dinner at 6:30. Tickets are tax deductible, and are available at the club for $75 each. Tickets include appetizers, dinner and live entertainment by Sam Roth.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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