“Oh dude! This is our last game, but the jamboree is cool, too. Are you going? You gotta go because there’s free hot dogs well I think they’re free, and stuff. What? Dude! I’ve been going to the jamboree all of my life. You gotta go. We play other teams and eat hot dogs and play games and get prizes. It’s all day. Yeah, I’ve been going all my life.”
Thus a heartfelt description from a wizened 10-year-old soccer player, an ancient mariner among the sea of 800-plus Boys & Girls Club members that pepper any and all available fields during the summer. Such experience steeped from this 4-foot elder that I could not help but listen to his conviction as he recounted his soccer jamboree memories.
From my perspective, it was safe to say he’d been officially chasing the ball for at least the past five years, thanks to a chain of devoted individuals who initially introduced him and others to the importance of fundamentals, teamwork and good sportsmanship.
I like to view each of our athletic programs as individual, giant parachutes. You know, the chute kids clasp onto round its circumference while the group leader coaches them into rhythmically raising and lowering the chute. Eventually, the group creates an inviting dome for which all anxiously wait to scurry underneath by command. Somehow, it’s a fulfilling sense of achievement to all who participate as the chute gently lights upon the mass of squirms and giggles. Another sport season closes with great success.
Why the analogy? Because among the many volunteer coaches, referees, staff, parents and sponsors, there is a leader who has encouraged many to participate around an idea that initially started as a small afterschool program in Kenai.
Kathy Ehrhardt is that group leader that Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula had the good fortune of hiring 10 years ago come September. Kathy came to us just as the athletic program was on the cusp of change, and it was her ability to plan, organize and offer additional sports activities because she saw the need and gathered surrounding community volunteers in a circle, allowing our children the opportunity to enjoy the games and new friendships.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Kathy as a co-worker for almost three years, but as a mom of two squirrels, I’ve grown largely dependent upon her variety of programs and camps for the past eight. It is with heavy heart that the staff, board of directors and I accept her need to seek new life experiences. We will rehire a new director, but we will never be able to re-place her.
Brenda Pilgrim Ahlberg
Boys & Girls Clubs
of the Kenai Peninsula
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