Bonnie Draper at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Bonnie Draper at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Helping Boys & Girls to thrive

Bonnie Draper's generosity transforms one Boys & Girls Club's scholarship program

At the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley, teens are testing sound and lights in the Amato Center for the Performing Arts. Young tap dancers are rocking the dance studio (which doubles as board room). Some kids are going swimming at a town park, and some have returned from fishing. One group has gone to the local library. Cooking classes are on deck. A small tribe bounces a ball through the lobby (the club is fundraising for a new gym), past a display of college banners.

This club is a community home base for people as young as three and as old as 21. Thirty percent of its 900 members come from low-income families. Some live with their families in cars, surfing couches.

When Bonnie Draper learned, from the Foundation’s Director of Grantmaking Anne Phillips, that the club needed help providing scholarships for kids whose families were struggling, she stepped in.

“All kids should have an opportunity to enjoy life and walk around with their heads held high,” Draper said. “If I can make a difference, that’s wonderful. I just want to give them an opportunity, and put a smile on their face, and make them feel proud of themselves.”

From her donor-advised fund at the Foundation, Draper recommended a grant of $15,000 that helped give kids access to everything this Boys & Girls Club offers: a safe before-and- after school space. Summer camps. Mentoring. Homework help and college prep. Rock climbing. Art and music and dance and swim lessons.

“Her wonderful investment in kids means the whole community does better,” Phillips said.

“All kids should have an opportunity to enjoy life and walk around with their heads held high.”
–Bonnie Draper
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The grant came at a critical moment: State and federal funding had diminished precipitously as need had grown increasingly acute. And Draper’s gift brought about sweeping change, serving as both foundation and catalyst for the club to transform its scholarship offerings, raise additional funds and provide more families with deeper support.

The club gave out $15,000 in scholarships in 2009.

In 2015, it gave out $140,000. “That was like seed money,” said Nancy Amato, who serves on the club’s board and, with husband Paul, is a longtime and generous supporter.

Bonnie’s consistent support has anchored the club’s scholarship program since. And need continues to grow.

Megan Hammes grew up at this club and “loved all of it.” Now she is a counselor, working with kids for whom the club is a buoy of consistency and caring. “Seeing kids gain confidence here is really cool,” she said.

Neither the kids nor club staff members know who gets the scholarship help.

“Everyone’s equal,” Draper said, “and that’s how it should be.” When Bonnie Draper was a kid, her parents both worked and were rarely home. She really could have used a Boys & Girls Club.

Knowing that she is giving kids in her community that gift now, she said: “It makes my heart beat stronger.”

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This story originally appeared in our 2015 Fall/2016 Winter Purpose Newsletter