Meet Bethany Czerny, a passionate Mental Health Specialist at Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids. As one of our Master of Social Work interns, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role, dedicating herself to supporting the well-being of the children in her care at the Steil Club. With her educational background and professional experience, Bethany is equipped with a deep understanding of mental health dynamics and effective intervention strategies.  

Each morning, Bethany starts the day on a positive note by riding her bike to work. The fresh air and physical activity help set the right tone for the day. As she arrives at the Club, she is greeted with buzzing energy of children and a sense of purpose.  

After settling at her desk, Bethany takes a moment to review her schedule and notes for the day, while enjoying a quick breakfast. Her responsibilities involve meeting with Club members individually for case management or in groups for group sessions. These sessions allow her to connect with the children and provide much-needed support.  

Throughout the day, Bethany is available for any member who needs a safe space to work through their big emotions or take a break from the busy Club. The cool-down corners offer a space for members to check in with how they are feeling, pick a tool to help them regulate, and learn new coping skills.  

As the morning progresses, Bethany makes her rounds to different Program Centers around the Club. Checking in with the kids ensures they feel seen and heard, which is essential for their emotional well-being. Her approach goes beyond just addressing immediate concerns; she focuses on building meaningful connections with Club members and creating a nurturing environment by playing games, reading, or making art together 

Lunchtime brings an opportunity for Bethany to further support kids who might feel overwhelmed in the busy gym area. Two children in particular, find comfort in her company during lunch. They bond over a game of chess, which serves as a recreational outlet and a therapeutic tool for emotional regulation. 

Following lunch and announcements, the kids engage in group games at the gym, which can be the most intense part of the day. Bethany keeps a watchful eye, ensuring that everyone feels included and supported. Sometimes, a few kids may need a moment at the cool-down-corner or require one-on-one attention. Bethany promptly steps in, offering comfort and guidance as needed.  

As the afternoon unfolds, Bethany holds meetings with the Case Management kids or conducts group sessions. These sessions create a safe space for children to express themselves, share their struggles, and gain valuable insights and coping strategies.  

Before wrapping up the day, Bethany takes the time to jot down notes and reflections, helping her plan for the following day and ensure continuity in her support for the kids at the Club. Her dedication and passion significantly impact the mental health of the children we serve. 

We are truly fortunate to have Bethany on our team. Bethany creates a powerful force of positive change in the lives of the children. Through her thoughtful interactions, genuine care, and creative activities, she fosters an environment where young minds can flourish. Bethany exemplifies the Club’s mission to inspire and enable young people to reach their full potential as responsible, caring, and productive citizens.  

Please consider making a donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids today and join us in making a positive impact on the lives of our Club members. Together, we can prioritize mental health and ensure that every child receives the support they need to thrive. By choosing to support the Be You Wellness program, you will play a crucial role in creating a secure and encouraging environment for all the children we serve. Your contribution will enable us to continue providing essential resources, conducting staff training, and acquiring materials for our Cool Down Corners.

The Be You Wellness program is made possible, in part, thanks to the generous support of The Meijer Foundation, The Doug Meijer Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, The Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation, The Hanover Foundation, the Children’s Foundation, and Kent County.

Read More

Last week, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids held its highly anticipated Drive For Success Golf Outing, for the second year in a row, at the beautiful Scott Lake Country Club. Presented by the esteemed Eileen DeVries Family Foundation, the event proved to be an enormous success, gathering 19 teams for the occasion, raising an incredible sum of over $40,000 in support of the Drive For Success and Teen Programming. 

Despite the breezy weather, the Drive For Success Golf outing brought together a community of friends, supporters, and advocates who share a common goal of changing futures. The event was filled with joy, laughter, and a commitment to empowering the youth of our community. We are deeply grateful for the dedication and passion displayed by everyone involved. Together, we are making a lasting impact on the lives of our teen Club members.  

The Drive For Success Golf Outing would not have been possible without the generous support of our incredible sponsors. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to each of them for their unwavering commitment to our cause and mission. Your dedication to improving the lives of young people is truly admirable.  

Thank you to everyone who attended and for being part of this amazing journey as we continue to change lives and build a brighter future, one swing at a time. 

Presenting Sponsor: 

The Eileen DeVries Family Foundation 

Silver Sponsors: 

Berger Chevrolet, The Campbell Group, Isaac V. Norris & Associates, i3 Business Solutions, and Kraft Business Services.  

Read More

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all the young individuals we serve, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Pride Month serves as a valuable opportunity for us to reinforce our unwavering commitment to inclusivity by creating spaces where LGBTQ+ youth and their allies can express themselves freely, without fear of being judged or discriminated.  

Inclusivity and diversity are at the core of our organization’s values. During Pride Month, we have a chance to elevate the importance of celebrating and embracing differences. We strive for every young person who walks through our doors to feel genuinely valued and respected, regardless of their background or identity.  

We understand the profound significance of discussing and acknowledging Pride Month because it shines a spotlight on the experiences and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community. By doing so, we emphasize the importance of embracing diversity and fostering a strong sense of belonging among our members. We believe that creating an environment of acceptance and understanding is vital for the emotional well-being and personal growth of young individuals.  

Our programming is designed to empower our club members to celebrate their unique identities while respecting and appreciating the identities of others. By commemorating Pride Month, we strive to inspire our members to become advocates for equality and justice. We encourage them to use their voices to stand up against discrimination, prejudice, and inequality. We firmly believe that when young individuals understand and champion the rights of others, they become catalysts for positive change with their communities and beyond. 

Together, we can work towards creating a world where every young person feels accepted, celebrated, and encouraged to be their most authentic selves. Through our unwavering commitment to inclusivity, we strive to build a stronger, more compassionate, and more equitable community for all.  

Read More

In a world that often prioritizes physical wellness, it is crucial to recognize the relevance of mental health. At Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we not only recognize this fact but also actively champion mental health awareness within our community’s young members. Today, we delve into the profound impact of mental well-being and its profound influence on the lives of the youth we have the privilege to serve.

Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, shaping our ability to cope with stress, form relationships, and navigate life’s challenges. Just as physical health is essential for overall healthiness, mental health plays a crucial role in determining a person’s quality of life.

At our organization, we deeply value our responsibility in fostering the mental well-being of our youth. Our passionate team fully grasps the significance of establishing a nurturing environment that prioritizes the emotional health of our young members. With a variety of engaging and enriching activities, our goal is to empower them with the essential tools and skills needed to successfully navigate the inevitable challenges of life.

  1. Encouraging Healthy Habits: Promote healthy lifestyle choices, including regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep. Physical vitality is closely intertwined with mental health. 
  1. Education and Awareness: Increase awareness about mental health by organizing workshops, seminars, and educational campaigns. Educating ourselves and our community reduces stigma and encourages empathy and understanding. 
  1. Foster Resilience: Teach young individuals’ resilience-building skills, such as problem-solving, stress management, and positive self-talk. Resilience empowers them to bounce back from adversity and cope with life’s challenges effectively. 
  1. Seek Professional Help: If concerns about a child’s mental health persist or intensify, it is crucial to seek guidance from mental health professionals. They possess the expertise and tools to provide appropriate support. 

Mental health is not a luxury; it is a fundamental pillar for overall prosperity and fulfillment. While the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids serve as an exceptional foundation for promoting mental health, it is crucial to expand these efforts beyond our physical spaces. In addition to the Club’s initiatives, parents, educators, and the wider community all play an important role in nurturing and cultivating mental well-being. By joining forces, we can establish a collective support system that empowers young individuals and addresses their mental health needs holistically. Together, let us create a lasting impact that ensures the well-being of our youth.

Read More

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and at Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, which is why we are proud to offer our Be You Wellness program to all our Club members.  

Be You Wellness is a program implemented at all levels of our organization, designed to support our Club members’ mental health needs. The program is led by our director of social and emotional learning, Kristin Klose, who is a licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW). Kristin oversees several Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Social Work interns to provide consistent support to our kids. Kristin also manages staff training in mental health and trauma-informed care and implements de-escalation techniques such as cool down corners. 

We work with Club members to practice adult-led regulation in the cool down corners. We use the Zones of Regulation tool to help our Club members become more aware of their emotions. Once they have identified their emotions, we provide them with a variety of coping tools to self-regulate. These tools include drawing, coloring, reading, using fidgets, writing, deep breathing, and practicing mindfulness. By offering these tools and techniques, we empower our Club members to take control of their emotions and build important self-regulation skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. Our MSW interns and staff members work with Club members that have experienced high levels of trauma or have more explicit mental health needs. 

Through our Be You Wellness program, we are committed to creating a culture shift around mental health. This means providing our staff with the tools they need to de-escalate unsafe behaviors, ensure all Club members feel safe, understand how trauma affects the brain, and encourage self-regulation techniques. With the support of our donors, we can make a real difference in the lives of our Club members and their mental health. 

Consider donating to Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids today and help us make a difference in the lives of our Club members. Together, we can ensure that mental health is a priority and that every child has the support they need to succeed. By choosing to support the Be You Wellness program, you are helping us create a safe and supportive environment where every child we serve can thrive. With your help, we can continue providing resources, training our staff, as well as purchasing materials for our Cool Down Corners. 

The Be You Wellness program is funded in part by the generosity of The Meijer Foundation, The Doug Meijer Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, The Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation, The Hanover Foundation, the Children’s Foundation and Kent County. 

Read More

On Wednesday, March 8th, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids held their highly anticipated annual Youth of the Year Luncheon, presented by Lake Michigan Credit Union, at the Steil Club. The event was a celebration of our community’s most inspiring teens and their remarkable journeys.

This year’s candidates, Ana Vance, Antonia Smith, and Earnest Robertson, all showcased exceptional leadership, service, academic excellence, and dedication to a healthy lifestyle. Earnest Robertson was awarded the Youth of the Year 2023 title and will serve as an ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids at the state competition.

The Youth of the Year program is Boys & Girls Clubs of America premier leadership and recognition program for teens, shining a light on the perseverance, dedication, and determination of outstanding young people. The nominees truly embody the voice and spirit of hope, inspiring all kids to lead, succeed, and inspire.

The determination, perseverance, and dedication displayed by these young people is a testament to the incredible potential of the youth in our community. We congratulate all the nominees and wish Earnest Robertson the best of luck in the State competition.

The event was attended by over 150 people. Thanks to the generosity of the community, we raised an impressive $40,410, which will go directly towards programming and other needs at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids. This continued support is crucial to providing a safe and welcoming environment for kids in our community, and helping inspiring the next generation of leaders.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to our sponsors who made the Youth of the Year Luncheon possible, especially our presenting sponsor, Lake Michigan Credit Union. Their unwavering support and commitment to our mission have allowed us to continue serving the young people in our community and empowering them to reach their full potential.

Your support has enabled us to recognize the outstanding achievements of our Youth of the Year nominees and make a positive impact in the lives of young people in our community.

Thank you once again for your invaluable support.

Finally, we would also like to thank and acknowledge our generous sponsors for their contributions to making this event possible:

  • Lake Michigan Credit Union – Presenting Sponsor
  • Eileen DeVries Family Foundation – Matching Gift Sponsor
  • Warner Norcross & Judd – Table Sponsor
  • Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling
  • Posh Petals
  • Alpine Events
Read More
Wednesday, March 8th, 2023 
Registration: 11:30am 
Luncheon: 12:00 – 1:00pm 
235 Straight Ave. NW

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids is pleased to announce that it will be hosting its annual Youth of the Year luncheon on Wednesday, March 8th, 2023. The event, which recognizes the achievements of inspiring teens in the community, will take place at the Steil Club.  

Youth of the Year is America’s premier leadership and recognition program for teens, honoring young people who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence, and a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. The program aims to honor and celebrate our community’s most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys. Stories of extraordinary leadership, service, academic excellence, and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle have made Youth of the Year America’s premier leadership and recognition program for teens. These amazing young people represent the voice and spirit of hope. Inspiring all kids to lead. To succeed. To inspire.  

The candidates for this year’s Youth of the Year are Antonia Smith, Earnest Robertson III, and Ana Vance. Each of these exceptional young members of the Club embody the values and spirit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, and they are all shining examples of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence.  

At the event, the Youth winner will be selected by a panel of judges and will serve as ambassador for Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids at the state competition. This is a wonderful opportunity for these young people to highlight their talents and achievements and inspire others. The chosen youth will be an outstanding role model for other Club members, and their story will be a testament to the incredible potential of young people in our community.  

The luncheon will begin registration at 11:30am, followed by the main event from 12:00pm to 1:00pm. The event will highlight the incredible potential of young people in our community and demonstrate the power of the Youth of the Year program to inspire and motivate the next generation of leaders.  

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids would like to extend our sincere thanks to our generous event sponsors, including our Presenting Sponsor, Lake Michigan Credit Union; Matching Gift Sponsor, Eileen DeVries Family Foundation; and Sponsor, Warner Norcross & Judd.  

Registration for this event is free, but we kindly ask that you consider donating to support our mission. Registration is required to attend. To register, visit:   

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids is a non-profit organization that provides a safe and positive environment for young people to grow and develop. Our Clubs offer a wide range of programs and activities designed to help young people succeed in school, develop leadership skills, and build healthy relationships. We are dedicated to empowering and inspiring the next generation of leaders.  

Our mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as responsible citizens through education, recreation, and positive community experiences in partnership with the Grand Rapids Police Department. 

Our vision is to provide a world class Camp and Club Experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. 

Read More

Community is a crucial aspect of human nature. It is the foundation of social connections, support systems, and a feeling of belonging. Community is the thread that brings people together. It gives us a sense of identity and trust. It is a powerful tool for social transformation, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids is a testament to this fact.  

Studies have found that people who are socially linked to their communities are happier, healthier, and live longer than those who are not. Children who grow up in close-knit communities are more likely to have better academic success and overall well-being. It has been proven that social ties can help reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. At the Boys & Girls Club, staff are equipped to identify and connect children with mental health services, especially after the pandemic, where depression and suicide rates rose among children. 

More than just an after-school program, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids provides a second home for kids, serving as a safe haven for children who need it most. The Club creates a solid foundation for kids by providing positive role models and encouraging them to get involved in activities like sports, art, and team building, helping them gain confidence and resilience. Our organization truly embodies the importance of community. The Clubs’ programs and services instill pride and belonging to its members, which leads to improved outcomes for the community. 

Communities can provide a perception of stability and safety in uncertain times. During crisis or hardship, a support network can make all the difference. It also plays a crucial role in driving social change and transformation. Communities are more likely to act on social and political issues when they feel connected and engaged. This is because communities provide a deeper awareness of collective responsibility, leading to increased involvement in local activities and greater advocacy for critical issues. Collective action leads to greater impact and lasting solutions.  

As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” The staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids serve as mentor figures, working to find what each child is good at and helping them make the most of it. This allows kids to see themselves in a new light, reframing their narrative, and building confidence. For those who become staff, the Club serves as a connection back to their childhood, creating a support system they can always count on.  

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids is committed to changing lives. We offer children a unique perspective and opportunities, giving them hope and a sense of belonging. The approach taken by the Club helps build the kids’ confidence and encourages them to become leaders rather than followers. With staff support, tutoring and mentoring, the club is more than just an after-school program, it is a safe place where children can be kids, have fun, and find success on their own terms. 

Read More

Black History Month is an important time of the year to commemorate and honor the achievements and contributions of the Black community throughout history. This month serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for racial equality and a celebration of the progress that has been made. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we believe that it’s never too early to start learning about the significance and impact of Black History. By making sure the future generations understand the challenges, triumphs, and legacy of the Black community, we’re creating a brighter future for all. 

In this blog, we will share four ways to honor Black History Month and empower the youth in Grand Rapids. From cultural celebrations to community outreach, join us as we celebrate and appreciate the richness of Black culture, history, and heritage.  

Attend a Community Event 

Attend a community event that celebrates Black History Month. Whether it’s a performance, a lecture, or a museum exhibition, this is a great way to get children involved in the community and to educate them about the ongoing fight for racial equality. 

Create Art 

Encourage young ones to create art that reflects their experiences and the experiences of the Black community. This could be a painting, a sculpture, or a performance. Art is a powerful tool for self-expression and can encourage our youth to connect with their heritage and the experiences of African Americans. 

Volunteer together 

Volunteer together as a group to support a local organization that is working to improve the lives of Black people in Grand Rapids. This could be a community center, a food bank, or a mentorship program. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and to help understand the importance of giving back. 

Support Black-Owned Businesses  

It can be difficult for any business to succeed, but Black entrepreneurs have historically faced unique challenges.  Supporting a black-owned business can help stabilize a community, create more opportunities, build economic vitality, and promote productivity and resilience. It can also promote building relationships and boost community morale. 

At Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, we celebrate and honor Black History Month by acknowledging the significant contributions of Black individuals and recognizing the potential of future Black leaders in our Clubs. Understanding Black history is crucial and through open and honest discussions on race and systemic racism, we aim to foster healing and empower the next generation of leaders. When our members learn about Black icons and leaders, they are inspired to dream big and make a positive impact in their communities. Our Clubs aim to offer positive role models and programs to help young people reach their full potential, embracing and celebrating their unique identities and cultures.   

Read More

Someone to look up to. Someone to talk through worries and bad days. Someone to celebrate victories big and small. A good mentor is there to listen, to support, and to shine light on potential. Many of us would not be where we are, without the support of mentors. From Nelson Mandela to Bill Gates, some of the most successful people in history often attribute their success to mentors.  

And while most of our programs focus – as they should – on the benefits of the youth, adults also greatly benefit from mentoring kids. Being a mentor goes far beyond the rewarding feeling of “giving back”. Molding the future generation of leaders can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but for mentors, it also grants a chance to develop personal skills in various areas. Having socially responsible individuals invested in our youth’s future directly, not only impacts the community, but it has an effect in society as a whole. 

Here are some of the benefits that you will experience when getting involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids programs: 

Personal Fulfillment  

Wisdom learned through life experience is valuable to pass along. The sense of accomplishment that comes with giving young people time and knowledge to help them reach their full potential is priceless. By simply sharing your own learnings, you’re able to have a continuing impact on a person’s future.  Mentoring allows you to give something of your own, that is selfless and fulfilling.  

Authentic Relationships  

One of the greatest rewards of mentoring youth is gaining an appreciation of the reality of what the next generation is faced with and providing them with resources to positively guide them in their journey. Successful mentors understand that positive changes in the lives of young people do not happen automatically or overnight. Mentorship fosters deep, authentic relationships that take time to build and maintain, and they as a reminder of patience, tolerance, and understanding.  

Improved Communication Skills 

Articulating ideas through effective communication and storytelling is something that many great leaders embody. Initially, mentoring relationships revolve around building trust and rapport and the best way to do so is by listening carefully and providing feedback. Acting as a mentor provides the opportunity to develop active listening skills, practice taking internal knowledge, and verbally communicating it with someone; all core skills needed to be a successful leader.  

Mental Health Boost 

Making time for others who want to learn from you reinforces any doubt of your worth. Youth mentors experience an increase in self-confidence, reaffirmation of their abilities, and a motivation boost, especially when their mentee is successful. The opportunity to break the monotony, have fun, and “blow off steam”, provides a time away from the stresses of work and life. People who serve as mentors experience lower levels of anxiety, and an improved self-esteem from the act of helping others achieve their goals.  

Sense of Perspective 

Every conversation you have with someone from a different background, that has had different life experiences, teaches you something. Being exposed to thoughts and ideas that may be fundamentally different from your own can certainly be stretching for some; but it is also a chance for mentors to listen, engage, and reflect. You can hold onto your beliefs, but you may also find yourself changing your opinion and having an opportunity to learn something new when considering alternative opinions.  

The reward of mentoring is the absolute joy of seeing an acorn seed grow into a mighty oak. Being able to witness your mentee rise to the pinnacle of success is the ultimate sense of accomplishment. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, it is our vision to cultivate a healthy future for our community and that starts by nurturing our youth. It’s true, mentorship will challenge you, but it will be just as impactful to your growth as that of the child. 

If you are interested in experiencing the benefits of mentoring, contact us today to learn more about how you can get involved and help shape the future of our community.

Fill out an individual application online, a group volunteer interest form online, or contact Zoe Willoughby at or 616-233-9369. 


Read More