Spotlight is on youth at Boys & Girls Club fundraiser

Former Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, the guest speaker, talked about the importance of work ethic

April 14, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • Former professional baseball player Rick Dempsey signs autographs for Julie Rohm, left, president and chief volunteer officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County and Kitty Saville of Hagerstown, Thursday during a Boys & Girls Club fundraiser at Hager Hall Conference Center in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

Eight years ago, Merceydes Bowser needed somewhere to go after school, so her parents took her to the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County.

A somewhat shy girl, she said her first thought was, "Oh gosh! I don't know anybody."

In her years in the club, Merceydes learned to be a leader, how to earn and give respect and live a life of character, she said.

On Thursday, the 17-year-old senior at Washington County Technical High School was honored as the club's 2011 Youth of the Year.

The Boys & Girls Club of Washington County club held its 21st annual Steak & Burger Dinner Thursday at Hager Hall on Dual Highway.

About 400 people — program participants, families, friends, staff and guests — filled the grand ballroom to celebrate the program.

The annual dinner is the work of the program's participants, Development Director Buck Browning said.

It is an evening for the students to really shine, he said.

For many of the kids, like 14-year-old Ben Couvertier of Hagerstown, it was the first time they had stood before a crowd of about 400 people, Browning said.

At first, Merceydes was happy to learn that she was named Youth of the Year.  Then she was told she had to deliver a speech Thursday.

"I was like 'Oh my goodness,'" she said. "I'm not good with big crowds."

Browning said the evening is more than just a fancy dinner, it is also a learning experience for the club's participants.

"While tonight is indeed a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club, it is also a program for our kids," Browning said. "We're teaching them how to behave in public, we're teaching them to have the confidence to shake hands with people (and look them) in the eye and get to know other people in their community."

Browning said the club aimed to raise $30,000 through the event.

In addition to the meal, it featured a silent auction with items donated by community businesses and organizations. Youths from the club kept the evening moving by singing the national anthem, leading the pledge of allegiance, performing and emceeing.

Each year the club tries to have someone from the athletic community speak at the dinner, Browning said.

Major League baseball has selected the national Boys & Girls Club as its charity of choice so it was appropriate that this year former Baltimore Oriole Rick Dempsey came to speak in support of the club, Browning said.

Best known for his years behind the plate as a catcher for the Orioles, Dempsey spent much of his time Thursday meeting with people and signing autographs.

But he was there to talk to the kids about work ethic, he said.

"I was never even expected to ever be a professional baseball player," he said. "It was tenacity and work ethic that really took me all the way to the finish line and to four decades in baseball."

It was an honor to be asked to speak to the club, Dempsey said.

He said he has only missed two days of work since retiring from baseball.

Thursday was one of those two days, he said.

"I wanted to be here,' he said. "I was asked by a personal friend to do this."

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