About seven years ago I received the boy of the year award. It was an amazing honor, and just having that recognition meant the world to me. I will forever believe that simply recognizing people in that way helps push them forwards.
And I still keep it on my wall to this day.
But I look back seven years ago and I remember that I was just a kid. And as a kid, I had a lot of really important stuff going on in my life. You know, senior prom had just happened! I was about to graduate from high school. And I was about to start a whole new journey at college.
So it wasn’t really until Eileen called me and asked me to speak here that I thought about what it truly meant to me to be boy of the year. And for that matter, what Wakeman and truly meant to me.
So it only took seven years, but here we go.
• To me Wakeman was a place where I could be with like-minded people.
• To me it was a place where those people could come together no matter their background
• It was a place where the people who worked there did it because they cared. Because they wanted to be your friend and they wanted to help shape your life.
• It’s a place where you don’t judge others.
• To me it was a happy place.
• To me it was a place where I could do good.
• Even more than that, it was a place where you could choose to do good.
But most importantly, it was the place that taught me to always give back, and to always make sure that those people around me were just as happy, if not more, than I was.
And I took all those lessons to heart.
Wakeman formed who I am today as a person. Everything from Torch club as a middle schooler to Keystone club as I got older. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it, and looking back on it that baffles me.
It blows my mind how important things are to your future, that at the time just seem like a day-to-day occurrence.
Wakeman is there for people of all ages. All races, genders, backgrounds, and beliefs. The values of the boys and girls club of America are a foundation for such a vast amount of our country’s youth. For our country’s future.
Wakeman was there for me at a very pivotal moment in my life. Right before I graduated college, my best friend passed away from cancer - Which no 17-year-old should have to go through. It was and incredibly challenging time, but again, Wakeman and Keystone club were still there as a part of my life. I had people to support me both there and outside of the club, which made it a little bit better.
If it wasn’t for those people, and having the opportunity to give back to others, the path of my life at this point may have turned out differently.
So I went to college. I got involved with the boys and girls club in Dayton, Ohio. Did community service throughout my time there. I found ways to give back. Because you always give back.
And then I graduated from college and did what any sane 22-year-old would do. I told my parents I was going to ride my bicycle 5,000 miles to San Diego.
But, because Wakeman taught me you always give back, I chose to do it in honor of my friend who passed away, and raise money for a scholarship in his honor.
And over those 3 months, 4,700 miles, 13 states, and a wicked farmers tan, I learned a lot about myself as a person. I learned a lot about other people. I met some incredible people from all over the world, and it changed my life forever.
But I would have never gotten to mile number one if it hadn’t been for the life lessons I learned during my time at Wakeman.
Over these past seven years I have grown, and so has everyone in this room. It’s a part of life. We meet new people, do new things, and discover stuff about ourselves that we never could have imagined.
And while this happens, our communities grow. Places that have been a part of our lives for an extended period of time, or even just a few years, evolve and change. This of course, includes Wakeman.
So I challenge you tonight, tomorrow, and into the future to reflect on how Wakeman has impacted your life. How it has impacted your children’s lives. How it has helped someone near and dear to you.
I know first-hand that organizations like Wakeman change lives for the better, and I imagine that you do too. Please keep that thought in mind tonight, and moving forward, when you think of how you can make our community stronger. Go the extra mile, invest in Wakeman Boys & Girls Club and know that other club kids will take the road less traveled just as I have.