Recently, I had the besCleveland-boys-and-girls-clubt breakfast I have had in recent memory. And, believe it or not, I didn’t eat anything.

My friend, Dan Salamone, invited me to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s 7th Annual Youth of the Year and Recognition Breakfast.

I didn’t make it in time to sample any of the enticing breakfast spread that was provided by Heinen’s. But, nevertheless, the event was enlightening and inspiring. The keynote speaker, David Condon, had some shocking statistics about our nation’s youth.  Every eight seconds, a student drops out of high school. The high occurrence of teenage suicides and criminal convictions is equally astonishing.

We as a society have failed our youth, or at least it seems that way based on those numbers.

But in the midst of this sad and depressing reality, is a bright beacon of hope, and that torch is held high by the wonderful people who comprise the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Even harder to hear was the truth about the long-term consequences of juvenile delinquency. David revealed that the long-term financial consequences of our failing youth, and they are mind-boggling.
For instance, the Boys & Girls Club in one city focused on reducing teen pregnancies. They were so successful that they not only reduced, but totally eradicated any and all pregnancies among teens in that area. The projected savings to that city and county, as a result of the Boys & Girls Club efforts, were estimated to be $50 million.

Today’s recognition breakfast showcased real stories of real people who, against all odds, have changed lives for the better.  Each story had a common denominator – the Boy’s and Girl’s Club.

When all seemed lost and despair was overwhelming, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland provided not only a safe haven, but also a place where each individual was accepted, encouraged and given the resources to rise above and become contributing members of our society.

I’m so glad that Dan invited me to this morning’s breakfast. After witnessing firsthand these remarkable testimonies, I feel compelled to help out in some way.

I was lucky enough to grow up in Cleveland with family to support and guide me, and because of that I know how important it is for our youth to know they are worthwhile and valuable.

It reminds me of this beautiful quote from German poet and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The test of morality of a society is what it does for its children.”

The Boys & Girls Club event really brought that home to me.

It was definitely the best breakfast I never had.

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