The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester took 150 kids – most of them ages 10-14 – to Orlando last week for what has become an annual rite of passage for club members. Once again, thanks to Don Rodman and the Rodman Ride for Kids, Dorchester’s boys and girls were able to enjoy theme parks and pools and a first-ever airplane ride and make memories that will last a lifetime.
The kids had a blast and were a credit to our neighborhood.
The club has been running this trip to Disney World and other nearby attractions since 1992. My wife Linda was on that first trip (as a club member) 22 years ago and so it was extra special for us to spend some time with the kids and the staff members and volunteer chaperones who make the trip possible. Linda and I went on our own with our two girls and met the group there. Our two boys, John (10) and Conor (7), were part of the club delegation, so they spent most of their time happily away from mom and dad for the first time. The group assembled in the parking lot of BC High last Monday at 3:30 a.m. (!) to board three school buses bound for Logan Airport and the first JetBlue flight to Disney, which was filled completely by the BGCD contingent. The kids went straight from the Orlando airport, dropped their bags at the Clarion Inn (longtime Orlando home-away-from-home for the BGCD) and went straight to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the day.
Linda and I joined the boys and their friends at a couple of the theme parks and were able to assist by leading a small group around Universal and Disney attractions. The kids – including Alejandro, Michael, Zayla and Zayliana, Chi-chi, Trevor, Maddy and Brendan – were a fun and well-behaved crew. They bonded with kids they’d known for years, and with others who they just met thanks to the trip, kids from other local organizations who are invited to send a group down as well. And the trip is also fully inclusive, welcoming children with developmental challenges and disabilities to join in the fun.
The logistics of moving all the kids around – and of keeping them fed and safely boarded – is a daunting task. But the club’s leadership— including Mary Kinsella and Mike Joyce and Queenette Santos – have it down to a science. Many of the staff members went on the trip as youngsters and are now full-time employees of the club, like Chad Hassey and Aquiles Gomes, who were on that very first trip, too, back in ’92.
Don Rodman’s generosity has changed and enhanced the lives of generations of Dorchester kids by his underwriting of this trip. And it’s just one of the events throughout the course of the year that make the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester one of this community’s most critical assets. Just the week before the Disney trip, thanks to a big donation from former club member Mark Wahlberg, another large group of Dorchester kids spent a week at Camp Northbound, a beautiful lakeside resort up in Maine.
To Don Rodman and Mark Wahlberg, on behalf of all Dorchester kids – including certain adults who still think of themselves as kids – allow me to say it: Thank you!