Boys & Girls Club Member of the Year Credits His Mom And Dad With His Success
Ryan Wilson’s journey at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Porter County goes all the back to the fifth grade.
Now, as a high school sophomore and a member of the Portage Club, he not only has earned Member of the Year from Portage but also was selected as overall county Member of the Year and competed at the State Level.
He credits his mom and dad, Danielle and Ben, with much of his success.
“My mom is my rock,” Ryan said. “She pushes me all the time to get good grades.”
He is earning all As and Bs at Portage High School.
“My dad has always been there for me, whenever I needed him,” Ryan said.
His family is heavily involved in a Pug Rescue chapter.
We had one pug and when we needed to replace him, wanted another and we found Pug Rescue,” Ryan said.
“Now we coordinate it here. My dad was a state director for 2-3 years.”
It’s that kind of giving example that has enthused him in his Boys & Girls Club membership.
He knows some of his fellow club members may not have such a stable example of parenting.
But he will step in when asked by his peers and offer advice.
“Actually Ryan has been with us for probably longer than anyone, nine years,” said Portage Unit Director Dawn Bell.
“There is no doubt he is exactly what we think of when we think of an outstanding youth. He helps coach soccer . . . he does whatever is needed.
“He is just a great kid. He goes above and beyond. He truly wants to be a helper. He’ll do anything for anyone who needs him.”
Ryan said the friendships he has made through the years is irreplaceable. But he stresses the club experience is more than just playing sports games, though that is fun.
“I like to help tutor as I have been helped,” he said.
“This is a place for kids to hang out an not get in trouble.”
Among the most-recent lessons learned is public speaking. He had to make a three-minute speech at the state level and he practiced, practiced, practiced. He did it for the local club, for local leaders, for Dawn and anyone who would listen.
That might have been scary, but I think I did well. They told me I did not make enough eye contact, but I thought I did,” he said.
The local leaders, “. . . said I did awesome,” he said. “I was exactly confident in what I was saying.”
His confidence comes from his experience at the Portage club. From the beginning, his club experience was welcoming.
“It was fun, always,” he said. “I would either be in the gym or working in the computer lab, ‘Laptops for Learning.’
“There were so many cool games, I felt like I grew up in there.”
After the local competition, he was matched against the South Haven and Valparaiso area winners for the county honor.
“We did it on a Tuesday night and I thought, ‘OK, that’s done with.’
“Then the next day, when I got to the club, they were having a Club House Meeting, going over what we were doing that week,” he said.
“The final thing, Dawn said, that we are honored and I was to be congratulated for being the County Member of the Year. I was shocked.
“When she said it, I put my head down, I was really surprised.”
Later, he found out, what made a difference in his overall county selection was that fellow club members used the words “hero” and superman” to describe what he did for them.
An example: He heard a mutual friend was starting to “get into the drug life,” as he put it.
So he arranged to use a private office to talk to this peer and, “I was able to steer him away from it. He joined the club and has been OK ever since.”
If he were to make a sales pitch to new embers, he said, “I would say it’s a really fun, safe place to be. For the younger kids, they will find friends from their other sports teams, like soccer clubs, or classmates or neighborhood friends.
“It’s just a really big place to meet and have a fun time.”