Executive director of Boys & Girls Club retires after 39 years
Aug 31, 2017 01:26PM
● By Jana Klopsch
Kids in the junior club have a read-aloud during their power hour. Bob Dunn said that they make sure that all the kids at Boys & Girls Club stay on top of their schoolwork. (Jessica Parcell/City Journals)
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As the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club for the past 39 years, Bob Dunn has been a busy man. However, he never has missed a chance to stop, smile and talk to kids gathered outside or inside the club .
“I want to make sure that the kids felt like they’d been accepted,” Dunn said.
Dunn has been part of the Boys & Girls Club since he was hired on in 1978 at the age of 24 after attending the University of Utah. The starting budget for the program was a meager $19,000.
The retiring executive said that he remembers being in high school and seeing the bullying toward disadvantaged kids. That motivated him to make a difference.
It started with a simple after-hours open gym at Riverview Jr. High School. Dunn said growing up he loved sports, he loved playing and moving around. While he was attending Riverview Jr. High, he wrote an editorial for the school newspaper suggesting that they should open the gym after hours and on weekends. The school’s gym coach turned his idea down saying that doing so would require money the school did not have.
It wasn’t until five years later at age 19 while he was attending the University of Utah that the coach called him again and said the school had gotten some money from the community and they were opening a gym. Dunn was offered the job of running the gym, which he gladly accepted. He started a program for kids from 8 years old to junior high-school age.
In the beginning, the Boys & Girls Club’s activities were held in a small building. Dunn said they would host 100-plus kids daily. Finally, in 1978 he was asked to come to the Boys & Girls Club in Murray.
The children that attend the Boys & Girls Club are of varying background, and Dunn has made sure that they all accept and respect each other.
“Nothing makes me feel better than seeing a kid kind of wrapping his arm around it,” Dunn said .
One such kid is 15-year-old Carlos. Carlos said he has been coming to the Boys & Girls Club with his brother since he was five. He said he enjoys it for the sense of community he feels there.
“It’s also just a better place for people to be, ‘cause after school you could be getting into a lot of trouble and stuff,” Carlos said. “It’s more of a thing that you could do to not get yourself in trouble.”
Carlos said that the teen program at the Club gets them involved in a lot of different opportunities for community service. Everything from the animal and homeless shelters to the Red Cross, but he said his favorite service activity is picking up trash.
Andi Whitesides, the director of the teen club at Boys & Girls, used to be a member of the club herself. She said to help teens deal with things they’re struggling with they hold team meetings twice a day.
“If they’re struggling with gossip, or if they’re struggling with name-calling—things like that—we’ll discuss it as a group in team meeting,” Whitesides said.
Dunn said that one of the things that has been most influential for him as he has worked with the kids is seeing them succeed. He said seeing the positive attitudes that the kids have in rising above all odds is empowering.
“The biggest thing is how these kids have been able to overcome a lot of obstacles,” Dunn said.
While Dunn retired last month, he still plans to do things with the Boys & Girls Club.
“I want to be part of [the club] for the rest of my life,” Dunn said. “I absolutely love it.”
Dunn was presented with the National Service to Youth Award this past month from the Boys & Girls Club, the highest award given to an employee.