• WHAT: 35th annual Manteca/Lathrop Boys & Girls Club Telethon
• WHEN: Monday, Nov. 24, from 5 to 8 p.m. & Tuesday, Nov. 25, from 5 to 10 p.m.
• WHERE: You can drop by the clubhouse at 545 W. Alameda to bid on silent or live auction items and enjoy entertainment or watch on Comcast Cable 97
• TO VOLUNTEER: Call 239.KIDS
Phil Waterford knows the Boys & Girls Club can make a difference in the life of a youth.
“I recognize that the Boys & Girls Club is an alternative to gangs, drugs, and guns,” the owner of Manteca Ford said. “The reality is that every child follows a path. For many the path will lead them to a door — a door that gives them a place to grow. That is what I witness every time I step into a Boys & Girls Club.”
Waterford is among nearly 300 volunteers helping stage the 35th annual telethon this Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Tuesday from 5 to 10 p.m. on Comcast Channel 97. He’s working as one of the on-air master of ceremonies. The telethon is a key to the club’s ability to serve 1,500 youth each year in Manteca and Lathrop.
Waterford attended the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago growing up. And while he can rattle off a long list of ways that the club helped shape his life, the reason he’s involved with the telethon is because of young people like Miguel Lopez, Maliah Watson, and David Ramirez.
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Club kept Lopez off wrong path
Lopez is currently a freshman at Modesto Junior College where he plays basketball. He is the first one in his family to attend college and will be the first to graduate college.
“The Manteca Boys & Girls Club has been a safe haven for me, and gave me the foundation I needed even before I knew what I needed,” Lopez said. “When I was younger kids often made fun of me for my hairstyle and having a different last name than my brother and sister. The club kids looked like me and had similar home situations. They accepted me for who I was, not for what I looked like.”
“The club offered programs like basketball and Smart Moves. I credit these two programs for my main turn around. I can remember hanging around my older cousins and thinking those guys are cool. They would smoke and drink beer and get into a lot of trouble with the cops. This was typical of my family; young and old. Unfortunately they were my role models. Smart Moves opened my eyes to the harm tobacco, drugs, and alcohol does to your body and is very deadly if abused. In the past I have been offered either drugs or alcohol but continue to say no because of what I learned at the club. I found better things to do with my time such as basketball at the club.”
Lopez said he wasn’t very good when he started playing basketball but “lucky for me the coaches at the club kept me motivated. Before long, my game became great. Coaches wanted me on their teams and I was able to make new friends. I would even help younger kids who needed some pointers on how to play. I felt needed; I had a purpose. It’s hard to describe the feeling. All I know is I wasn’t thinking about hanging with cousins. It was all about the club.”
“What’s the club mean to me? For me it’s life. Who knows where I would have ended up? I’m not drinking, up to no good or causing trouble; not for this kid. I set my goals early. I wanted to have good grades and play varsity basketball. I was able to achieve both. The club also means foundation. You can build anything on a solid foundation and I hope to pay it forward one day. My next goal is to graduate college and play basketball with the club as my foundation, I know anything is possible.”
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Club is Watson’s gateway to hope
Watson is a senior at East Union High where she is an outstanding student athlete. She was recently accepted to attend Fresno State University.
Watson and her younger sister have been through tough times growing up. They live with their grandparents to have some stability at home. In 2010, her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her grandfather could not take care of her so the job fell upon Watson. A year after her grandmother was cancer free, her grandfather died. They needed someone to speak at the funeral but her grandmother could not, so Watson volunteered right away to speak.
She credits the club with helping her though the tough times.
“The club has been my home away from home since 2010 when I became a member,” she said.
The club has taught her to be a leader.
“One must be willing to stand up for what they believe in, not just to say it, but show it to other kids,” she said.
Watson noted the club, “is my gateway to hope and opportunity and it has made me a better person.”
• • •
Ramirez goes from struggling student to UC Davis senior
When Ramirez first started at the club he was very shy and wouldn’t speak to anyone. His grades were not good and he was failing most of his classes.
Club staff got him involved in the Keystone Club and he started to come out of his shell.
Staff took an active role in his life every day when he came to the club and always asked how his day at school went.
The staff recruited a volunteer tutor to help him with his school work, his grades went up and he started dreaming about college.
Today Ramirez is a senior at the University of California at Davis.
He now tells others how the club helped him get to college and become a successful student.
• • •
Waterford said club taught him lessons
Waterford said “the great thing to me about giving is what I get back. Seeing so many young people make good choices and reap rewards is everything to me.”
“I absolutely love the Boys & Girls Club,” Waterford said. “It is the reason I’m here. It taught me so many lessons that I can talk about in a positive way and in an honest way the rest of my life. Great futures start right here at the Boys & Girls Club of Manteca & Lathrop.”
The telethon consists of four components: volunteers manning phones to call individuals and businesses for pledges, entertainment, a live auction, and a silent auction.
Volunteer groups manning the phones Monday include Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Manteca Police Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police, Starbucks, Lathrop Chamber of Commerce, Manteca Chamber of Commerce, Manteca Interact, and His Way Recovery.
Helping on the phones Tuesday are Women of Woodbridge, Calvary Community Church, Del Webb at Woodbridge Men’s Club, Manteca Kiwanis, Building Industry of the Delta, His Way Recovery, the Place of Refuge, Manteca Soroptimists, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christian Worship Center, and Manteca Youth Focus.
The entertainment consists of local groups ranging from singers and bands to dance groups.
The telethon has been a Manteca Thanksgiving week tradition for 35 years.
The telethon is the major fundraiser for the club that provides a safe haven for 1,500 youth from ages 6 to 17. Since its inception, the telethon has raised in excess of $2.5 million over the course of 35 years.