1990 was a tough year in Dorchester. The murder rate was at an all-time high, drug-fueled gang warfare was a constant threat, and teens were dropping left and right in shootings that seemed particularly menacing for their randomness. The level of violence that we experience today in Boston is bad enough, but in the early ‘90s, it was far worse and seemed to be spiraling out of control.
It was in that environment that the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester – then known as the Colonel Daniel Marr Club – started an ambitious summertime program aimed at keeping our kids and teens as safe as possible while they still had a fun break from school. They did it by extending their hours until 11 p.m. for older teens and arranging rides home for many of those who lived on streets that were unsafe.
They launched a terrific basketball league that brought in teens who might have otherwise met as rivals on the street corners and turned them into teammates. They organized field trips and movie nights and paid scores of older teens to help coordinate it all. I was fortunate to be one of them.
The club’s leadership then and now – Bob Scannell and Mike Joyce – hustled to find more funds to meet the needs of our kids. They’ve never stopped hustling and the results have been a game-changer for our neighborhood.
“It’s proven that crime rates increase in the summer evenings,” said Scannell, who is president and CEO of BGCD. “The club takes our mission very seriously to provide a safe place for our members to learn and grow, create meaningful relationships with caring adult professionals, and participate in life-enhancing programs and character development experiences.”
On Monday, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester will launch their 25th season of Safe Summer Streets with a kick-off event featuring Chris Herren, the former Boston Celtics player and founder of the Herren Project, which counsels against drug and alcohol abuse. Herren’s presentation will be followed by roller skating, a pool party, and a barbeque.
The kids will spend their summer playing basketball and volleyball, swimming, taking music and dance classes, including Zumba and hip hop, — and many of them will have a chance to spend a week at camp in New Hampshire or take a trip to Disney.
Throughout the summer, Safe Summer Streets will afford over 4,000 of our kids the chance to experience a vacation season that every kid should get, but that many do not in our American cities. That’s not the case here in Dorchester, or at least it doesn’t have to be.
If you know a family or a kid who needs to be plugged into the Boys and Girls Clubs, don’t hesitate. This is a safe haven like no other in our community. Check them out online at bgcdorchester.org or call 617-288-7120.