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  • Fairbury News staff

Club update presented

Elliana Jonsson talks about the Boys and Girls Club at Walton Centre Wednesday morning.

Some exciting news was shared with those attending Wednesday’s Invest in Great Futures fundraising breakfast hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Livingston County.

Plans are moving forward for a new state-of-the-art Boys and Girls Club building and senior center in Fairbury with some funds already received from the state to get the ball rolling. State Representative Tom Bennett and State Senator Jason Barickman were able to get $300,000 allocated to the club - $200,000 will be for the Fairbury building with $100,000 for a teen center at Pontiac.

“Right now, we are looking at $3.5 million,” explained Jodi Martin, local Boys and Girls Club CEO. “We may have to cut down a little bit but this $200,000 gives us the infrastructure to start the process.”

Martin said things were moving in the right direction and they are excited to provide a new club and senior center for the community.

“We had collected a number of ideas and possibilities and we were able to identify the Boys and Girls Club here as a tremendous place for these funds to go,” said Representative Bennett.

Bennett and Barickman provided funding through two different areas in the state budget.

“This is a tremendous club. They really reach out to the kids,” Bennett added.

Also during Wednesday’s breakfast presentation at Fairbury’s Walton Centre, Piper Rieger explained how the club has always been a solid and stable environment with programs bringing out the best in people.

The club’s Chief Operating Officer Kam Sallee presented information on the robotics program and 12-year-old Sam Honegger gave a presentation. He is from the Fairbury club.

“The robot looks awesome and kids were able to design it,” Sallee noted.

Martin gave a State of the Club address, with past, present and future endeavors. She acknowledged being impressed with this area when she was interviewing for the job a few years back.

“I realized this was a place I wouldn’t mind being a part of.”

Stressful times set in when the pandemic hit last year but the local hospital asked the club to stay open for essential workers. As the Boys and Girls Club navigated through COVID-19, they were knocked down a few times but bounced right back thanks to community support.

Another site has been opened in Forrest and a site at Pontiac Junior High will open in the fall as the organization continues to move forward.

Parent Angie Hammond explained what the club meant to her as a parent, noting the club has embraced tough situations and supported others through every part of their journeys. Hammond has realized the importance of socialization for kids by being part of a team and learning what sportsmanship is all about.

The 2021 Youth of the Year representative for the Boys and Girls Club of Livingston County is Xavier Watson. He will go on to the state level in April and possibly regionals after that.

Keynote speaker for the morning was Paul Ritter, a Pontiac Township High School teacher who has received numerous awards for his approaches to environmental education. He won the 2014 White House Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators and the 2012 National Environmental Science Teacher of the Year award.

Ritter’s international Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program, or P2D2, was named the number one environmental program in the nation by the United Nations in 2012 for teaching his own students to properly dispose of over a million pounds of pharmaceuticals.

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