Four years ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB) identified a desire to enhance their services. At that time, the clubs, which provide kids and teens with enriching programming from arts to academics to technology, wanted to incorporate more targeted programming focused on health and wellness. Fortunately, they knew where to turn to fill that gap: Massachusetts General Hospital.
A Healthy Partnership
“Mass General’s health centers work in some of the same communities as the Boys & Girls Clubs, like Chelsea and Charlestown,” says Debra Burke, RN, associate chief nurse at Mass General. “The hospital is committed to our neighbors’ health and well-being, so it makes sense that Mass General and BGCB work together. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the Center for Community Health Improvement really came together to make this partnership happen.”
Today, there are 11 BGCB clubs in the greater Boston area, which serve 8,000 registered members and more than 16,000 young people, who benefit from services through different community educational events. “We strongly believe in education, and it’s the foundation of all we do,” says Lauren Cook, executive director of strategic partnerships and initiatives at BGCB.
Promoting Wellness in Many Ways
Earlier this year, both a nurse and a health educator were funded by Mass General to join the BGCB team to help promote a culture of health. Full-time director of healthy lifestyle Grace Lichaa, MPH, leads cooking and nutrition classes and teaches workshops on topics like stress management and emotional health. “We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice for kids,” says Grace, “so we give them the knowledge and the tools to live healthier lives.” The clubs also provide members with one healthy meal each day.
“Our camps provide activities all day long so kids can be active and have fun with their friends.”
Patricia McCarthy, RN, who also works part-time at Mass General, leads BGCB courses on sexual health education. In addition, she runs health screenings at community events, trauma and emergency treatment workshops, and clinical health workshops for BGCB staff. “Many of our members do not have access to information about creating a safe and healthy home and leading a healthy lifestyle,” says Patricia. “We want them to use our club as a resource for health education.”
Thanks to Mass General, BGCB will welcome two new nurses this summer, when it launches its 10 annual summer camps for more than 1,300 teens and kids. “A Harvard study recently found that young people gain more weight in the summer months, because they don’t have a structured schedule,” says Lauren. “Our camps provide activities all day long so kids can be active and have fun with their friends. And having someone onsite with a medical background is invaluable.”
Lessons to Last a Lifetime
“By fostering relationships with young people, we can teach many key lessons they can use both inside and outside our Clubs.”
Through Health360, which reflects BGCB’s broad focus on health, BGCB aims to show kids and teens the many facets of health: emotional, physical activity, nutrition, mindfulness, sleep, hygiene, the outdoors, self-esteem, positivity, safety and avoiding illegal substances. Further, the staff at BGCB leads by example. “We aim to be positive adult role models for our members,” says Lauren. “By fostering relationships with young people, we can teach many key lessons they can use both inside and outside our Clubs.”
“This partnership with Mass General will be transformative for Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston for the next five years,” Lauren says. “We are so grateful for the hospital’s involvement in our mission, and we look forward to seeing the results over the years to come.”