A place where kids can fly high and land softly

September 05, 2017 | GET MORE : Social Responsibility

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U.S. Bank is investing in the Boys & Girls Club playground that's shaping a community's future leaders

How do you test out the bounce factor of new rubber mulch on your playground? You run full speed and make a solid landing — on your bottom, of course.

That's how one seven-year-old girl approached the challenge at the Kirkland Boys & Girls Club during a recent celebration for a variety of club upgrades. From the look on her face, the resurfaced playground's new rubber mulch gets two big thumbs up.

The new playground surface (in blue and green, Seattle Seahawks colors) and other upgrades were made possible through a $50,000 grant from U.S. Bank to the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County as part of U.S. Bank's Community Possible Month of Play initiative, featuring $6.6 million in grants to nonprofits nationally. The Boys & Girls Clubs of King County serves 26,000 kids countywide through its 29 clubs in the greater Seattle area. 

"We at U.S. Bank are really supportive of the power of play. I think all of us are the most creative, the healthiest and most energized when we're playing," said Betsy Cadwallader, U.S. Bank's Seattle market president. "All over the country we provide this kind of support to organizations like the Boys & Girls Club that really embrace the core values that U.S. Bank has."

Thanks to U.S. Bank's grant and some elbow grease from employee volunteers, new mats were also installed on the walls of the gym and reconfigured to allow for better air circulation — mold had started to grow behind the old ones. The club's kitchen has also been outfitted with new appliances.

"This has been an amazing gift for our club," said Jamie Heil, Kirkland's club director. "We were able to take care of some really important safety features and also get some things that we've been needing for a while and that we're going to be able to enjoy it for years to come."

The club offers full-time care through after school programs and summer day and has a large athletic department offering various sports programs. 

"We have families that come in and use the club just for athletics. During the season kids learn cooperation and teamwork and how to be team player, and what an amazing life skill that is," Jamie said. "For drop in and summer camps, it's a lifeline for a lot of them. We have a lot of kids on scholarships." In fact, the club gave $59,000 in scholarships for this summer's camps.

"Families know their kids can come and be safe and taken care of and grow at the same time. We're not just watching them, we're doing our best to help them develop into amazing little people who will grow up to be amazing big people. That is our goal."

Amazing big people like Alex Repass. Alex, a 17-year-old senior from Lake Washington High School, started volunteering at the club about a year ago through its Keystone Program. Keystone helps high school students build leadership skills through service projects both at the club and in the community. What started as a Thursday night commitment to Keystone soon grew as he looked for more opportunities to volunteer.

"I really like working with the kids. There's a lot of energy here. I have fun because I'm a really high-energy person myself," Alex said. "Kirkland is a tight knit community. These kids come from so many different families and backgrounds. It meshes them together within this community. They all grow so much — even over the time I’ve been here."

For his commitment, he was named the club's spring youth of the quarter. At a time when most kids his age are working summer jobs, he's a full-time volunteer at the club's summer camp. 

"They're not paying me but I'm putting miles on my soul," Alex said. 

While U.S. Bank and the Boys & Girls Club are two very different organizations, Dr. Lisa Chin, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County pointed out the shared values the two share.

"Look at the kids," she said as kids ran around her during the playground's ribbon cutting celebration. "You've got to love this. Look at how happy these kids are. These are our kids. They are your kids. Their parents walk into your branches. U.S. Bank is a huge organization but it's really about the local community. It's the same for us. We're entrusted with children. You're entrusted with financial futures."

Cassie Wagner is a member of U.S. Bank's public affairs and communications team.