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Boys and Girls Club delivers sweet recognition for its champions

Kaitlyn Riley

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Volunteers and staff for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse were not going to let COVID-19 dampen the spirits of a 54-year-old tradition known as the Celebration of Champions.

In years past, the Celebration of Champions was an evening of ice cream and recognition. Bringing that same energy into individual homes, staff delivered ice cream from the Sweet Shop with toppings as well as a plaque and an official Celebration of Champions t-shirt to each honoree Wednesday. That night, they gathered virtually with family and friends to give a message of thanks.

“It’s sad that we can’t do it in our facility, but we don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to celebrate kids,” Executive Director Jake Erickson said. “Kids deserved to be recognized.”

Club member Aubrey Borreson was completely surprised when staff stopped at her door.

“It’s pretty thoughtful that they’re trying to still reward us with the things that we’ve done,” Borreson said.

Aubrey Borreson

More than 30 club members, volunteers and staff were recognized for their leadership including sportsmanship awards, athlete of the year, boy and girl of the year, and backer of the year.

“Not only the youth deserve to be recognized, but our role models and all of our programs at the club, adults that have done an awesome job supporting our youth,” Erickson said.

Erickson noted the Boys and Girls Club worked to find creative solutions for continuing outreach with kids. Staff are going out on a nightly basis to deliver meals to kids at home.

“This is just another way to stay in contact with our kids and keep them attached to our staff and our organization,” Erickson said.

As of Friday, they would have delivered more than 20,000 meals. Going into early June, that number will exceed 25,000.

“That’s with our family night initiative, and we’ll involve 20 area restaurants in that,” Erickson said. “It is just an example of our community supporting not only our organization but also those who really need us most.”

He hoped to have their facility opened soon with some summer athletics. In the meantime, the Boys and Girls Club is developing pop-up programming that could happen in partnership with other area organizations.

“We’re working on some collaborations that will offer programming so that kids can get together, be safe, have fun and stay connected not only with each other but also with our role models at the Boys and Girls Club,” Erickson said.

The focus will be on bike riding and other outdoor activities.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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