Scottsdale outreach efforts beneficiary of local philanthropic group

A view of a Boys & Girls Club member sizing up a shot in basketball. (Submitted photo)

There isn’t a single nonprofit operating in Scottsdale that does not exist without help from the outside community.

Efforts like the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale and Miracle League of Arizona offer opportunities to thousands of children every year they likely would never have without the organizations and the employees that fuel their respective outreach mission.

For local families in the Scottsdale area without the luxury of an extended family support system the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale make sure children have a safe and constructive environment to go after school and during extended breaks during the year.

Meanwhile the Miracle League of Arizona is a nonprofit organization in north Scottsdale, dedicated to providing a safe, successful and enjoyable baseball experience for children, teens and adults with disabilities or special health care needs.

For 56 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

The tradition carries on in 2017 as this year’s grant cycle garners $305,000 for 37 nonprofit charities serving the Scottsdale community whereas the Boys & Girls Club and Miracle League were both beneficiaries.

Dennis Robbins

“The donation requests have certainly increased over the years,” said Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins in a Jan. 4 statement.

“As the economy weakened the need grew larger.  Also, as more organizations have heard about the Scottsdale Charros Donation program we have received more requests for help.”

Mr. Robbins points out as the political appetite for outreach efforts dwindles grant requests continue to rise — a challenge welcomed by the Scottsdale Charros.

“The Charros continue to look for ways to raise more money to help those in need in our community,” he said.

“The more advertising, programs and tickets we sell for Spring Training games the more money we have to give back. This year we are adding shade that will cover most of the Charro Lodge in right field so that our guests will have even a better experience in Scottsdale Stadium.”

Mr. Robbins points out the Charro grant program is based on the benefit of the overall community.

“If you add the contributions we have made to equestrian organizations, we have given almost 80 percent of our contributions to Scottsdale-area charities. Our mission and our charge is to give back to the Scottsdale community,” he said.

“We do give a portion of our contributions to efforts or organizations that our members are involved in.  Most of the time we require that the money come back to benefit Scottsdale residents. For example, the ALS Association is based in Phoenix but the money comes back to help Scottsdale residents.”

This grant cycle the Scottsdale Charros provided $80,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale and $20,00 to the Miracle League of Arizona, records show.

The Charro Lodge at Scottsdale Stadium is a key event venue for the Cactus League, which is the Arizona Spring Training league for Major League Baseball. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Bridging the gap

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale Executive Director Lisa Hurst contends the dollars provided by the Charros have given opportunities many would not encounter otherwise.

“Because of their resources, thousands of kids are able to participate in our athletic leagues who maybe couldn’t afford to any other way,” she said in a Jan. 3 phone interview.

“In addition to that, they have allowed us to provide those tangible needs that we have especially with our sport equipment — that stuff really wears out fast for kids.”

But its not all fun and games at the Boys & Girls Club, Ms. Hurst points out.

Reading is a major component of any youngster’s education and the Boys & Girls Club host programs during the summer to keep developing skills sharp. (Submitted photo)

“We have been able to hire tutors and education specialists to work with the kids during the summer,” she said of Charro contributions that go toward education initiatives.

Ms. Hurst points out elementary students oftentimes return from school break a bit rusty and the Boys & Girls Club education initiatives is geared toward bridging that educational gap.

“We are here to inspire and enable all young people especially those that need us the most to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens,” she pointed out. “We see ourselves as a conduit for all kids.”

Ms. Hurst points out the real-life challenges many believe is untouched in affluent Scottsdale neighborhoods is a falsehood that needs to be acknowledged.

“Many of those kids come from broken homes,” she of Boys & Girls in all corners of Scottsdale.

“I think too one of the great things the Charros provided is offering out kids role models. I think we try to be a safety net for those parents. That mentoring is great for those kids. It is really a great example of what giving back really means.”

A level playing field

There are both children and adults who cannot participate in the simple joys of the world around us, but for a few days a week the Miracle League of Arizona makes sure all children — and now their adult counterparts — have the opportunity to discover the joy of baseball, camaraderie and friendship.

“We now have a state-of-the-art facility because of the Scottsdale Charros,” said Miracle League of Arizona Executive Director Cassandra Switalski in a Jan. 3 phone interview.

“They have provided us funding for the programing that is supporting to maintain all of the additional volunteers and participants of our programs. What we wanted to do was provide an adaptive recreation program or activities for individuals with special needs.”

Dodgers fan Zach Bacon takes a swing at a pitch at the Miracle League of Arizona. (Submitted photo)

Ms. Switalski says the Miracle League strives to show that everyone can be a part of a team — something larger than one’s self, she says.

“We know that our families have other expenditures and, really, we just want to have a place where they can come, get out and have some fun. We just want to give them a place to feel welcome. It is completely free of cost.”

Ms. Switalski says high-fives and smiles ear-to-ear are personal mementos she sees as a job well done.

“Friendships develop between the volunteers and the athletes,” she pointed out. “They (the Charros) are an integral part and they are very much supportive of any new efforts we have. We are very proud to have them apart of our effort.”

Mr. Robbins contends the Scottsdale Charros take their grant program extremely serious.

“We have a thorough application process that allows us to gather sufficient data about the organization and how the money will be used,” he said.

“We have a committee that reviews every application. We discuss how each application aligns with our mission and we give as much as we can to those groups.  It is always a balancing act to determine if we give more money to  fewer organizations or less money to more groups that are really  trying to help those in our community. Unfortunately, at the end of the day there is never enough to go around.”

To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale go to bgcs.org. And, to learn more about the Miracle League of Arizona, go to mlaz.org.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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