Boys and Girls Club Students and Staff

Feature Story and Photos By Larry H. Oskin, South Lake Tablet

The Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida is celebrating its 5th Anniversary in Clermont. Its BGC Mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. Currently, they serve a very diverse community with over 500 children in Lake County and over 150 in Clermont. Children and families are able to take advantage of extra special exciting programs, weekly events and rewarding activities. 

BGC Middle Schoolers at Snack Break

Every day after school and all summer long, the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida provides a safe and caring club experience for children between the ages of 6 and 18 from some of our most disadvantaged local neighborhoods, at no or little cost to their families. They believe that every child, regardless of income or life circumstance, should be empowered to excel in school, become good citizens and lead healthy, productive lives. Club families pay either nothing or a nominal fee for their children to attend. By providing our club members with academic support, extracurricular opportunities and positive adult role models, aiming to break the cycle of poverty for future generations.

Cheryl O’Rourke and Pam Unruh

Led by Cheryl O’Rourke as the Service Director and Pamela Unruh as the Lake County Director of Operations and Development Officer, they have a strong staff with a team of volunteers.  O’Rourke has earned multiple degrees in Early Childhood Development. Unruh is a retired public defender, who represented children as a professional attorney.

Unruh notes that they have a Quiet Room to keep the children positive while feeling valued if any behavior or other challenge arises. We have had our children create their own ‘Calming Jars’ with glitter and gels, so they can shake it up while waiting for it to settle down as they and the glitter settle down. We invite people to call us and come here to see the kids in action and to get involved.

Teens in Recretion Room

 O’Rourke notes, “We do our best to give our children opportunities they would not otherwise get. For example, the Orlando Ballet is spending 13 weeks with us and our children. We always add new inspiring books to our library, encouraging the students to explore what they want to be and do when they grow up. Our Youth in Unity Program teaches universal acceptance with equality and compassion for everyone, inclusive of any age, race, religion, heritage, physical attributes or body shape. We teach about the many challenges with drugs, tobacco and alcohol. We have a special Real Man Program for the boys. We work with our kids, so they know someone else is always on their side. Our parents always back us up with love and care. Their children trust us with no judgments!”

O’Rourke continues, “We also work closely with our local Clermont Police and Fire Departments to create a strong positive relationship for the children to respect. While working with the Clermont Police Department and their Blue Line Protection Program, they practice Active Drills, so each child understands what to do until ‘All Clear’ is announced.” She adds, “We work with the generous help of the Clermont Triathlon Club, South Lake Cares Food Pantry, Publix Supermarkets, Chic fil A, Disney, St. Mathias Church, local business and city staff leaders as well as many more.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida is always in need of sponsorships, mentors, volunteers, food, supplies, equipment, scholarships, rewards and financial support.

Research shows that 74% of fourth graders cannot read at grade level and as a result, 23% of Lake County high schoolers do not graduate on time. The Boys & Girls Clubs have initiated numerous academic programs to improve and resolve this challenge. They have a Power Hour, providing help with homework every day to make sure their children stay on track. Their Diplomas 2 Degrees Program helps their teens work toward high school graduation with an eye on college. With this initiative, 70% of their club members are now on grade level for their age. 88% now earn mostly As and Bs. 98% of their high school seniors graduated on time and 90% will be pursuing higher education. O’Rourke adds, “We work with children, but we build adults. Statistics show that our club members make good choices, stay in school and graduate with the skills and confidence to succeed.”

Since Lake County has a strong average teen arrest rate, they have implemented Torch and Keystone Clubs and a Youth of the Year Empowerment program which empowers the children to become a community of leaders with a passion for helping others in the community through educational and volunteerism activities. As a result, 76% of Lake Teens have volunteered and 46% volunteer weekly.

The Boys & Girls Club has Five Core Values: It teaches children to 1. Be great, 2. Be a team, 3. Be caring, 4. Be fun and 5 Be safe.

The Club is open on weekdays for the children during all school holidays and on teacher workshop days, when the schools are closed.

O’Rourke comments, “Our Boys & Girls Club kids deserve the best! We put the needs and priorities of our children first with everything we do each day as well as for our motivated staff and volunteers. We are blessed to have a staff that supports our kids, their families, our mission, core values and projects. We must always show our kids their positive true value, so they can feel important, self-assured, confident, valued and worthy!”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida is located in the Clermont Arts & Recreation Building at 3700 South Highway 27 in Clermont, FL 34711. They are open for activities from 2:30 to 6 PM on weekdays. Call 352-394-9840 or 302-350-9456. Visit: Like and follow them on Facebook at:

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