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Torch Club Kids Reach Out to Community

SOUTHPORT, Conn. -- Community service by pre-teen children is alive and well. The Torch Club at the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club is proof.

The club recently was honored by office supply store Staples for excellence in social recreation for its members, who are age 11-13. There are 60 children in the program, which is directed by Ruben Goodwin. He is also the club's program director for sports, fitness and recreation.

"We've done soup kitchens, a Christmas tree festival and we do a lot for different drives,'' Goodwin said. "We try to give back to the community and reach out as well."

Wakeman is a hub of activity for children in Fairfield, Westport and Southport. There are nearly 3,500 members, and nearly 1,000 of them are in the age category for the Torch Club. A group that initially had just 15 members three years ago has become so popular that more than 30 teens have been turned away. Goodwin and Drew Carothers, the program director at Wakeman, now have an application process to select the best candidates for the club. The application includes writing an essay and being interviewed.  "The interview process will help us determine which ones are serious about it,'' Carothers said.

Kids work a minimum of two hours per month. There are some events, however, that require full participation. Torch Club members also work at events within the club, such as at concession stands during lacrosse games and during the weekly game room night. The club meets twice a month from October through June.

"They take ownership of the club,'' Goodwin said. "The parents aren't allowed to email us any questions. If they can't make a meeting, they have to let us know."

The club elects officers, and is run by the members. They choose the projects and events that they will attend. The key is letting the members work through their problems, to develop leadership and communication skills.

"One of the best things is they build a lot of friendships,'' says Carothers, who also coaches lacrosse at Wakeman. "In the first meeting, there's not a lot of talking. By the end of the year, you can't get them to stop talking. They really come out of their shell."

Have your children been part of the Torch Club at Wakeman? What has been their experience? Start the discussion below!

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