Boys & Girls Club Kids Participate in Revolutionary New ‘Pen Pal’ Technology

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale and Aha!101 recently launched a program where Club members in Scottsdale connect live with peers in China through a glorified ‘Pen Pal’ system. The Boys & Girls Club members, who are also English Language Learners (ELL) students, received a tablet, which will become their gateway to becoming fluent in English while connecting to peers around the world.

Through the program, called Woogi U, youth will participate in a student-driven, game-based English language program on the tablet that connects English-speaking and non-English speaking children from around the world. The students will connect and collaborate directly with students in schools throughout China as they practice English while developing 21st century skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, entrepreneurship and cultural understanding.

The Woogi U program is designed to motivate students by games, relevance and social interaction as well as help peak curiosity for understanding the English language, increasing learning speeds. The tablets were donated by Aha!101 and will be owned by the Boys & Girls Club members once they master the first year of English fluency.

“We are thrilled to provide 21st century learning devices to these Boys & Girls Club youth, whom we believe have so much potential to be a positive influence on their family, community and country, “ says Reed Frerichs, Managing Director of Aha!101, “We are setting them free to learn critical life skills at anytime and anywhere.”

The program is said to be extremely scalable, effective and runs at a minimal cost. The Woogi U program is also an affordable English language product for non-profits such as the Boys & Girls Clubs as it offers a dynamic learning experience which engages students and keeps them wanting to learn more, all delivered on a state of the art tablet.

“This partnership is a perfect match as it helps drives our mission of providing academic success, character and healthy lifestyles, all while being on the forefront of technology,” says Steve Davidson, President/CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. “We look forward to seeing our Club members excel with this program as well as have fun meeting peers in other countries – something they might not ever get the chance to do otherwise.”

Boys & Girls Clubs Emphasizes Concussion Awareness in Fall Football

A major health care concern has continued to grow since the 2010 reports about sports related concussions in current and former professional athletes – especially within the football community. That research led to an examination of youth-league football programs where it was found that other than a required sports physical, there were few processes or Best Practices in place regulating how coaches and other youth development professionals were to evaluate hurt players and educate parents on how to keep their kids safe while playing football.

While the topic of concussions with current and former professional athletes gain most of the media’s attention, the frequency and side effects of premature Return to Play and Return to Learn (focusing on youth returning to School) are of equal or more concern in the most vulnerable population – young athletes from 6-14 years of age.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale runs the only Boys & Girls Clubs tackle football program in the state and in a bold, proactive response to this emerging health care concern, the Club contacted The CACTIS Foundation (CACTIS) with a special interest in developing a plan to address the issue of concussions. The two organizations partnered, committing to provide substantial resources to create a unique Youth Football Program aimed at educating young athletes, their parents, coaches and staff about the proper steps to reduce the number of concussions. They also instituted the “Best Practices” management of the young athlete suspected of sustaining this injury.

“The safety of our youth is our number one priority,” says Steve Davidson, President/CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. “We have an obligation to our members to stay on the forefront of information being published and discussed in the scientific literature and the media so we can provide the best programming possible – especially related to sports.”

In conjunction with the Banner Concussion Center and the CACTIS Foundation, the Club started the Safe Play initiative which includes; comprehensive baseline concussion-screening of all registrants in conjunction with preseason physical examinations, education training for families and reinforcing the “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out” policy. The policy enforces that in the absence of medical professionals on the sidelines, instructed coaches to remove from practice or a game any player sustaining a head blow and demonstrating any alteration in their behavior. These players were then referred to medical specialists for evaluation and recommendations as to when it was safe to “Return to Play” or “Return to Learn.”

Starting this year, a decision was made to restrict the registration for the Tackle Football Program to members over the age of 10, in keeping with guidelines and legislation emerging in many states and school districts. Younger members are being offered Flag Football as an alternative. Both programs are closely monitored for head blows throughout the season and emphasize the Safe Play initiative.

Also, a mandatory and comprehensive baseline concussion-screening program for all athletes in the tackle football program prior to the season and in conjunction with the routine preseason physical examinations.

“Educating parents, coaches and athletes to recognize the signs of concussions and the appropriate steps that health care providers should take in the prevention, diagnosis and management of concussions is one of the most important issues in sports medicine today,” said Dr. Steven M. Erickson, the medical director of the Banner Concussion Center.

Registration is now open for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s Football Program, with practices beginning in early September and baseline concussion screenings starting prior to the practice sessions. The acclaimed program, with its ongoing emphasis on safety, has been in existence for more than 25 years serving more than 2,000 kids ages 7-14. Registration fees start at $150 plus a $25 membership fee. For more information contact Sheila Scott, league director at (480) 947-6331 or

Steve Schwanz Receives Coveted Jim Hill Award

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Valley business leader Steve Schwanz was recently awarded the coveted Jim Hill Award by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. The award, established in 1999 after the passing of former board president and member Jim Hill, is given to an individual who replicates Hill’s extraordinary qualities of dedication to the organization and the now over 17,800 children it serves.

Schwanz was recognized for his dedication – serving 19 years and counting at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale and serving 12 years at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix. In the process he has helped fund branches and outreach sites located in the greater Scottsdale/Phoenix areas and on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa and Hualapai Indian Communities.

“Steve has been a driver of the greater Scottsdale organization’s growth for almost two decades – helping us to keep up with the demand for youth services by motivating the community to support Club projects,” says Steve Davidson, President/CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale.

In addition to his years of service, Schwanz has also impacted the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale in many other ways including:
• Developed an annual celebrity golf invitational that grew into the Mark Grace Celebrity Golf Invitational, which since its inception has raised $2.5 million for the Clubs.
• Created an annual wine and food event that grew into what is now Live & Local, one of the premiere events of the fall that raises more than $250,000 for the Clubs each year.
• Headed the annual giving campaign for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale which reflects the strong and valuable mentoring members receive from the experienced staff and dedicated volunteers. The campaign, formally known as Angels for Kids, now called GIVE, has raised more than 8 million over the last decade.

“Knowing that you’re helping build on the future wellbeing of the Clubs is something I’m very proud of,” says Schwanz. “My mom was very involved in nonprofit work, so carrying on her legacy and receiving the Jim Hill Award is very humbling and truly an honor.”

A successful business leader, Schwanz heads Franchise Capital Advisors, a boutique investment banking and specialized financial advisory firm in Scottsdale and understands the value of a dollar. According to a recent study funded through a grant by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, every dollar spent by the Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the Valley generates $19.33 in positive economic impacts for the community.

“Giving back to the community is very important,” says Schwanz. “If you can change the lives of a few kids, and in turn they can change the lives of a few more, over time thousands of kids’ lives can be changed for the better.”