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Eight children wearing oversized blue Jeffco Boys & Girls Club T-shirts greeted guests as they walked through the doors of the Lakewood Country Club on Sept. 28.
“Welcome, and thanks for coming,” they said to each of the 100 attendees.
The event was the Building Great Futures Reception — a fundraiser for the Lakewood-based Jeffco Boys & Girls Club.
At about 5 p.m., Tony Accetta approached the lectern. As an alumnus, Accetta said he had five minutes to recount his 70 years of involvement with the Boys & Girls Club.
In a nutshell, he said to the crowd, he joined the Boys Club, which was the name of the club back then, when he was 5 and living in Manhattan.
“I had handled guns,” Accetta said. “I knew mafia people.”
But thanks to the support of the Boys Club, he achieved a lot in his life — a Wall Street lawyer, a federal prosecutor, first assistant attorney general for Colorado, trustee for the Colorado Symphony, former director of the board of the Boys Clubs of New York and Denver, and chairman of the Colorado Council of Boys Clubs.
“Throughout my career, I have always given credit to the Boys Club,” Accetta said. “Boys & Girls Clubs do everything good that a parent would want for their child. Boys & Girls Clubs expand the possibilities for kids in a very real way.”
Boys & Girls Clubs focus on providing three key outcomes. They are: academic and career success, character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles. It accomplishes these through engaging youths in a variety of interesting programs and activities.
The Jefferson County Boys & Girls Club, housed at Emory Elementary School, 1275 S. Teller St. in Lakewood, opened in August 2010. It is open to children ages 6 to 18. Programs and activities include homework help, cultural arts, STEM activities, physical fitness and leadership programs.
At the Lakewood Country Club event, Valeria Aragon was presented with the 2017 Youth of the Year award. Aragon, 19, joined the Jeffco Boys & Girls Club when she was 11 or 12, she said. She signed up as soon as she first heard of the new club opening in her neighborhood. She was the third member to join.
She recounted the first community service project — a park cleanup — that she did with the club, but added, “the list goes on and on with things I’ve gotten to do.”
Aragon now studies at Red Rocks Community College with plans to continue on to law school and become an immigration lawyer.
“I want to do things that matter,” Aragon said.
As she wrapped up her speech, Aragon received a standing ovation. But that was not the end of her surprises that night — Ben Fiscus, the donor relations manager for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, joined her at the lectern. He announced that two anonymous donors offered to pay the remainder of her tuition at Red Rocks Community College.
The Jeffco Boys & Girls Club provided Aragon with a lot of friendships and life-changing realizations, she said.
“You get so much out of it, you don’t even know it at the time,” Aragon said. “It becomes a second home.”
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