Hope, Inspiration, Opportunity

Hope, Inspiration, OpportunityBoys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast Reaches Out with New Fort Walton Beach FacilityBy Jennifer Walker-Journey

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast has a 40-year tradition of providing leadership and activities for youth in Okaloosa and Walton counties. This fall, the nonprofit organization opened a new facility to broaden its reach in the community.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, an organization founded nearly 150 years ago with a goal to get kids off the street and provide them with hope and opportunity in a safe environment. Clubs were opened throughout the country in the years that followed. In 1968, the Emerald Coast club was chartered to serve local boys and girls.

Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast offers six separate recreational and educational facilities, each one striving to inspire and enable all young people, their families and their community to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. This mission also is carried out by clubs throughout the country through specialized programs that teach members to appreciate and commit to academics, citizenship and a healthy lifestyle. Activities and programs focus on character and leadership, education and career development, health and life skills, arts and crafts, and sports, fitness and recreation. All programs focus on young people between the ages of 6 and 18.

The Emerald Coast organization oversees a teen center in Fort Walton Beach, a club in South Walton, a teen center in DeFuniak Springs and two SMART Centers, one at Meigs Middle School and the other at Ruckel Middle School. In 2007, more than 4,000 area youth benefited from the programs offered at these clubs, says Andi Ratliff, public relations and special events coordinator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast.

Significant growth of the South Walton club prompted the organization to build a sixth club on Denton Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach. The new, 27,770-square-foot facility opened in September and includes a youth gymnasium with a rock-climbing wall; classrooms for homework; activity rooms for art, dance and music; a game room with pool, table tennis, air hockey and video games; a computer lab; a teen art studio; and study rooms.

“The purpose of this new club is the same for all our clubs – to fulfill our mission of empowering kids to the best of our ability,” Ratliff says.

There still is great demand in Okaloosa and Walton counties, especially in neighboring communities such as Crestview, Niceville, Destin, DeFuniak Springs and Freeport. However, with the opening of the new Okaloosa County facility, “We will be able to reach out to higher numbers of our local youth,” Ratliff says.

To donate or volunteer, call the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast at (850) 862-1616 or visit bgcec.com.

Bye-Bye Boogies

Every mom has cringed with embarrassment after discovering her offspring has been frolicking amongst society with a crusty streak of mucus coating a good part of his or her face. No need to find a bathroom for a scrub-down – all the gunk can swabbed be off with a Boogie Wipe. Invented by two Oregon mothers, Boogie Wipes are moist wipes with added saline for gentle yet effective removal of caked-on boogies. They also contain moisturizing aloe, chamomile and vitamin E, so your little ones won’t have chapped skin from too much tissue wiping.
Boogie Wipes come individually wrapped or in 30-packs in regular and grape fragrances. They can be found at Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, or online at cvs.com or boogiewipes.com. – Stephanie Castellano

Tweens Say ‘Hola’ to the Hip Chicas

What’s a girl to do when she outgrows Dora the Explorer? She can graduate to hipchicas.com, the first-ever Latina-themed online world. Exclusively for tween girls, the site features a popular on-tour band consisting of five Hispanic characters from cities all over the United States. Their virtual task involves helping improve the planet with each stop they make on tour. Hipchicas.com is a fun way for girls to focus their creative energy by teaching the language and culture of Latin America and how they can improve the world via videos, music and interactive games. – Chelsey Germani