Michigan

Annual Fundraiser at Boys & Girls Club Helps LGBTQ Youth

Torch Club Raises $100 for The Trevor Project

BY KATE OPALEWSKI

Gallery photos by Alex Godin

ROYAL OAK - Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. To raise awareness about the number of young people who attempt to kill or do kill themselves each year, six youth between the ages of 11-13 at the Boys & Girls Club of South Oakland County came up with an idea for their annual fundraiser to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month.

Members of the Torch Club chose to collect funds to benefit the Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people ages 13-24.

"We wanted to help kids to get back to a stable life and go to school and feel like normal kids and not get bullied," said Katelyn Hudson, a member of the chartered, small group leadership and service club, which teaches young people how to build good character, gain confidence, develop social skills and a sense of responsibility.

"We chose them because we wanted to support people who are considered different from others," said Emma McGee.

Fellow club member Charlotte Claeys agrees, "We all strongly believe in supporting them."

While none of the youth openly identify as LGBTQ, Torch Club Advisor Erin McClaine said, "This is an issue that matters to them a lot. They are a loving, open-minded, open-hearted group of kids. They want to see a world where people are loved and accepted. This sends a message, whether LGBTQ or ally, that we are a safe place."

McClaine said the Torch Club set humble fundraising goals to collect almost $100 from other club members. That amount might not seem like a lot, but $1 donated helps fund one minute of crisis intervention and suicide prevention with a highly-trained and accredited crisis counselor on the Trevor Lifeline. So that money can keep their lines going for two hours.

Once the Torch Club reached their fundraising goals, they were able to participate in what they call Dare to Care challenges. After raising $20, they performed improv acting skits for younger club members to enjoy. They decorated cakes blindfolded after raising $30.

Once they reached their final goal of $50, staff members DJ Shepherd, Devin Carmen and Corinne MacInnes helped McClaine organize a free throw basketball challenge in the Jack and Patti Salter Community Center in Royal Oak on May 12. Around 60 youth filled the gymnasium to cheer on the Torch Club while they shot hoops blindfolded.

Even though 11-year-old Luke Liszak was the only participant to make a basket, which he said he felt "happy" about, everyone received a prize following the event. But it's about more than winning.

"This is teaching them how to talk with people by having to explain what the charity is they are raising money for and why it's important, in addition to planning and organizing. They are learning leadership skills," said McClaine, which allows them to continue their personal growth and advance to the Keystone Club for teens ages 14-18.

Four of the Torch Club members - McGee, Hudson, Claeys and Canty - are graduating this year.

When asked what she enjoyed so much about her experience in the Torch Club, McGee said, "I made friends, helped different people and went on field trips. I developed real world skills. It was really fun."

The Boys & Girls Club of South Oakland County is located at 1545 E. Lincoln Ave. in Royal Oak. Learn more about the Torch Club online or call 248-544-4166. Share the Trevor Project's 24-hour suicide hotline 866-488-7386 or visit their website for more information.
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