Monday marked the beginning of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia’s free 8-week virtual summer program.

Operating through July 31st, the program includes a diverse range of fun activities designed to increase opportunities for academic engagement, promote mental health, and provide for basic needs. With over 240 Club members already enrolled, registration will remain open all summer to kids ages 6-18 through the BGCCVA Virtual Programming Consent Form.

Consisting of at least two live and one prerecorded online sessions each week, program opportunities include Summer Reading, STEM and arts projects, wellness, and other enriching activities. The Club is also delivering books, program supplies, and sports equipment to members to promote participation, regardless of internet access.

Summer Reading is designed to reduce the academic slide created by COVID-19. Every two weeks, grade-appropriate books and related activities that intentionally include a wide range of interests and diverse characters are distributed to participants. Weekly live read-along sessions feature a line-up of local celebrities and friends of the Club.

Among other program highlights, the Club’s STEM specialist is leading participants in Story City, a multi-week project that engages kids from their homes in designing and building their own unique cityscapes. Additionally, the arts specialist has designed a weekly virtual art studio for members to practice painting and drawing techniques.

To promote mental health, the Club’s wellness coordinator engages members in mindfulness and social-emotional wellbeing. Interactive healthy cooking videos and group exercises are also included in the program.

“It’s been difficult not seeing our kids at the Club every day. We miss hearing our walls echo their joyful laughter,” says Boys & Girls Club CEO James Pierce. “This will be the first summer since the Club opened 28 years ago that we will not be physically open, but ultimately, we need to protect the health and safety of our members, families, and staff. I’m grateful that our virtual summer allows us to stay connected with members, and I continue to be impressed by their ability to adapt to challenging situations.”

Boys & Girls Club continues to address additional community needs and disseminate information to members and families. Beginning May 12th, the Cherry Avenue Club partnered with local caterer Pearl Island Café to distribute 200 meals twice a week to members and parents. As demand continues, World Central Kitchen is joining the effort throughout the summer. The Cherry Avenue Club has also established a community pantry stocked with non-perishable foods. Club members and families are encouraged to take what they need.

“It is more important than ever that we are able to be a reliable resource to children and families,” explains Pierce. “We are working closely with local school systems, the Charlottesville Area Network Dedicated to Youth Development, and other valued community partners to ensure that for this summer and beyond, we are taking strategic and effective steps toward meeting the increased academic, mental health, and basic needs of young people.”

With plans to reopen facilities no sooner than August 3rd, the Club has assembled a Safe Reopening Committee, comprised of Club board, staff, local health professionals, and a UVA risk analyst. Guided by the Virginia Department of Education’s “Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020” plan, the committee is meeting weekly to establish updated health and safety protocols before reopening.