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On May 9th, Youth amassed at the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha to explore dozens of career options. From police officers to beauticians, from lawyers to nurses, and basketball coaches to judges, this career fair allowed Boys & Girls Club kid…s to ask questions directly to the professionals. Many of the youth at the Boys & Girls Club have a dream, but they just don’t know how to get there. Events like the career day are simple ways to guide them in the right direction. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the Boys & Girls Club member responded, “A cop. They told me I have to stay in school if I want to be like them when I grow up.”





Crowd turns out for annual Cheese and Beer Festival

BY DENEEN SMITH Weston Navarro is such a fan of craft beers that when he and his wife were married two years ago, he convinced her to have the ceremony at a brewery. “I threw it out as a whim to her, never thinking she would go for it,” said Navarro of Gurnee, Ill. “But she liked the idea.” 

“It was very us,” Heather Navarro said of the wedding at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee.


The Navarros were among about 1,000 people at the fifth annual Dairy State Cheese and Beer Festival Saturday at the Brat Stop in Kenosha. The couple were pleased to find Lakefront was one of about 30 craft breweries serving some 150 types of beer at party, which benefits Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha.

“We’ve got a great crowd,” said Ron Stevens, a member of the committee that organizes the event.


Biggest fundraiser


Eric Olson, chairman of the event, said Boys & Girls Club supporters came up with the idea for the festival as a fun way to raise money for the club’s programs, taking advantage of the growing interest in craft beers.


“It’s now our biggest fundraiser,” Olson said.


The event raises more than $20,000 for the organization each year.


One of the highlights of the event is the contest that lets people vote on the best local brew. Members of the Kenosha Bidal Society and Racine’s Bell City Homebrewers and Vitners had about 30 different varieties of homemade beers on tap.


Feedback for Home Brewers


Jim Jensen of Kenosha made an apple spiced ale, the same brew he won the contest with last year.


“It was good — it’s already gone,” he said at about 3 p.m., just two hours into the event.

Jensen said he has been making beer for about 27 years, experimenting with his own recipes.


The secret ingredient in the apple spiced ale is a pound of Red Hots Candy.


“In Belgian beers a lot of times they use candied sugar — this is my take on it,” Jensen said.


Robert Roehre of Racine made a rum barrel-aged porter.


Roehre, a self-described “beer geek” said he loves making his own brews. He loves to hand people a glass and hear people exclaim, “You made this?”


Serving up his beer to strangers at festivals makes his day, he said.


“You brew for yourself, but it is nice to hear from people who aren’t your family or friends,” he said. “Your friends can be brutally honest sometimes, but when you get an unbiased opinion, it kind of means something different.”



Elementary Students Dance, Dance to Fitness

Eleven-year-old Aaron Ratliff busted some pretty sweet moves Friday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha — and landed the 1st Place trophy for the “Dance, Dance Revolution II” tournament.Ratliff, a fifth grade Brass Community School pupil, was among the 27 finalists at the Boys & Girls Club, 1130 52nd St., who went head-to-head, or more accurately, side-by-side, on electronic dance pads.Some 250-300 youths from kindergarten through fifth grade began in the overall competition in February at eight Kenosha Unified School District elementary school 21st Century Learning Center sites, as well as at the Boys & Girls Club. The non-profit agency runs the CLC sites under a contract with Unified. 

Showdown of Top Finalists


Friday’s tournament brought together the top three scorers from each site.


Kyantai Mason, 10, a fifth-grader at Roosevelt Elemenatary School, earned the 2nd Place trophy.


While a bit disappointed she didn’t win Friday, Brenna Strojinc, 9, was happy for fellow Jefferson Elementary School third-grader Aaron Wilson, who won the 3rd Place trophy. “I’m just glad someone from my school won,” she said.

Fourth-grader Raymon Haynes, 11, a member of the Grant Elementary School contingent, along with first-grader Cameron Jackson, 7, and Jasper Palermo, 10, also a fourth grade pupil, said the best thing was “when we compete and try our best.”


Monty Winford and her son, Xavier, 10, a fifth grade pupil at Vernon Elementary School, gave the tournament a mutual thumbs up. “I think it’s great,” she said. “They think it’s fun, but they’re really getting a good workout and exercise, too.”


“It was great because everybody got together and played each other,” Xavier said, adding he didn’t know Aaron Ratliff personally but was impressed by his performance. “I thought it was kind of cool that he won,” Xavier said.


Grant Funded


Kathy Holland, director of after school services for the Boys & Girls Club, wrote the grant application seeking $500 from Youth Service America. YSA, with sponsorship from United Health Care, wound up doubling that amount. The $1,000 paid for the game, Wii system and accessories, fruit juice and other healthy snacks, including nonfat yogurt and granola bars for participants. In addition, the Wii system can now be utilized at all the after school sites.


Holland said the idea for the tournament came from the Boys and Girls Club’s teen group, the Keystone Club, whose members went to the nine sites, recruited participants and ran the competition. “They thought it would be a good way to get kids up on their feet, get them moving and active,” Holland said.


“It’s something kids love to do. Kids love to dance,” said Andrea Prichard, Boys & Girls Club program director of after school services. “It (the tournament) gets them out of their school location to come here and compete with kids they never see in their neighborhood.”


Prichard said one measure of the program’s success is the youths’ reactions, their excitement and anticipation from start to finish. Added Holland, “Anything that gets kids up and moving and eating healthy snacks is a success.”





Self-effacing couple to receive Boys and Girls Club award


Nancy and Tom Laken will receive the Mary Frost-Ashley Patron Saint Award from the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha. The couple are being honored for their longtime support of the organization. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )


Some people crave the spotlight. Tom and Nancy Laken are flattered, thank you very much, but would rather it shine on someone else.


The couple — longtime supporters of the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha along with a host of other kid-centered programs in the city — will receive the club’s top award for benefactors at the annual Stars for Tomorrow banquet next month.


They will receive the Mary Frost-Ashley Patron Saint Award for their efforts on behalf of the club.


The Lakens were honored, but a little uncomfortable at being the center of attention.


“It’s a little embarrassing for both of us,” said Nancy. “We’re just enthused and excited about what’s happening, but there are a lot of wonderful people who are involved who are more important than us.”


Ron Stevens, associate director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the Lakens have sponsored hundreds of teams over the years, for the club and one of its predecessors, the Christian Youth Council.


They have also been leaders in annual fundraising efforts and served on the capital campaign steering committee that led efforts to raise funds for the club’s new facility.


“Tom and Nancy are just the type of people who get involved with things in the community as part of their normal, daily routine,” Stevens said. “They feel like they need to give back to their community, and the CYC and the Boys and Girls Club are a big part of that.”


Tom and Nancy Laken grew up in Kenosha and operate their company, Finishing and Plating Service Inc. The company, which they purchased from Tom’s father in 1982, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.


According to Nancy, getting involved with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club is largely her husband’s idea. She said he feels businesses have a duty to give back to the communities they make home.


“My husband is very pro anything dealing with kids,” she said. “He’s a big supporter of the (Kenosha Youth Foundation) and the museum and the Boys and Girls Club, and they are all geared toward helping kids through difficult times to adulthood. What assets those organizations are for the community.”


Tom himself just chuckled when asked about the award. “Call my wife,” he said. “I’m not much on that stuff.”


Nancy was equally reluctant. “I was going to say talk to my husband,” she said.


While she didn’t like to talk about herself, she was pleased to talk about her husband of 47 years.


“He is a very nice man,” she said. “I am his biggest fan.”


The Lakens will receive their award at the “Stars for Tomorrow” Youth of the Year and Awards banquet Feb. 29 at Madrigrano Marina Shore.


UW-Parkside Students Benefit from Boys & Girls Club Donor – click here:


2012 Winter Sports & Program Guide Now Available

The 2012 Winter “Kids Edition” guide to sports and programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha is now available.

The guide outlines all of the activities available through the club this winter. These include karate, field trips, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, rugby and martial arts. Also included in the guide are activities at the Natalie & Dennis Troha Youth Center and teen club (The Club).

The indoor sports activities will be hosted at the Joseph & Shirley Madrigrano Sports Complex, which includes the Johnson Bank fieldhouse and Kenosha’s only indoor soccer field.

The entire guide is available at


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Kenosha Area Noon Optimist Club Donates Entertainment Center

Thank you to the Kenosha Area Noon Optimist Club for your continuing sponsorship of the Boys & Girls Club of KenoshaEntertainment Center at the new club. Pictured above are (from left) Joel Pearlman, DonKresch, Dennis Duchene, Boys & Girls Club Chief Professional Officer Wally Graffen, Kathy Holland, Larry Nelson and Brian Jaffe. The Optimist Club also sponsors the club’s annual Youth of the Year awards banquet.


Updated on September 19, 2011



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Club Members Attend Cal Ripkin Baseball Clinic


On Friday, September 9, 45 members of the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha baseball and softball programs participated in a free clinic put on by “Cal Ripken Baseball”.

The clinic was donated by Jim Labreche, one of the BGC summer baseball coaches, who entered the “Diamonds and Dreams” contest put on by Chevrolet.



At this three hour clinic, which was held at the old Little League Park, club members learned numerous infield, outfield, hitting and pitching skills.


The staff from Cal Ripkin Baseball gave eac

h participant a goodie bag and entered them into a drawing to win an autographed baseball or 8×10 autographed photo of the legendary Cal Ripken Jr. These prizes along with about 20 others were awarded at the end of the clinic.

Updated on September 14, 2011

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Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha participates in Kenosha Unified’s “Back to School” event

The Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha participated in the Kenosha Unified School District’s big Back to School event on Saturday, September 10. Families attended this fun event to receive free school supplies, meet representatives of local youth-serving agencies and enjoy a free lunch. The Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha would like to extend our appreciation to LMI Packaging, Inc. for providing volutneers and free cookies for all attendees to decorate and eat.


Updated on September 13, 2011

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Kids, community fun to be under one roof

Featured in Kenosha News

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-day series looking at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha as it prepares to break ground on a new center this week.

The former Christian Youth Council at 1715 52nd St., now part of the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha, is only two blocks from the club’s future home at 14th Avenue and 52nd Street.

The change in location will not be dramatic. But the contents of the new building will be vastly different.

All operations from the CYC building and the club’s other facility at 3712 50th St. will move to the new center.

Ground for the 79,000-square-foot building will be broken at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the club hopes to move in within a year.

While the building is estimated to cost $9.7 million, the organization wants to raise about $13 million to provide for the building and an endowment fund.

The city provided a $5 million donation in 2007. The campaign has mostly been conducted with large contributors, but Wally Graffen, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the effort will become more public at some point.

“We’re very fortunate to have so much community backing,” Graffen said.


A look inside
The first floor of the new community center will allow for expanded programs for children, including a computer lab, a full-service kitchen and three multi-purpose rooms, which can serve 30 to 50 people each.

The gym will be the size of two high school gymnasiums, with room for multiple basketball and volleyball courts.

“It’s almost tripling our current gym capacity,” Graffen said.

There’s also a full-size indoor soccer field.

Soccer “draws in such a wide range of kids, and the field brings in a whole wide range of sports,” Graffen said. “More people play soccer than any other sport. It’s a big draw.”

Graffen said the field could be used for indoor football, a plus for the strong football programs already run through the Boys and Girls Club.

Also on the first floor is an outpost for the Kenosha Police Department. Specific use of the space is still being determined, but Graffen said police presence was a goal from the start.


Teen center
The second floor will be a teen center. No such space exists in Kenosha, and Graffen said creating this feature was a priority.

“We need a dedicated space for people between 13 and 18 years old,” Graffen said.

The space includes a video game room, a space for making art and a small theater, which can have additional seating for communitywide performances. A computer lab, teen-run concession stand and learning center are included.

“We had a teen focus group for what to have here, and their focus is different than what we thought,” Graffen said. “We didn’t have an art space before that group; we never even thought about that.”

Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey sees a big benefit in the teen center.

“I am optimistic that it will result in reductions in some of the juvenile incidents we have from 2:30 to 10 p.m.,” Morrissey said. “There’s not a lot of places for youth to go and hang out as a group.”

The second floor also includes multiple offices for local non-profit organizations. The Spanish Center is the only organization to commit to the space, but Graffen said arrangements are being finalized with other organizations.

A pair of parking lots buffer the building. The site is accessible by several bus lines and is near the Kenosha Metra station.

“What else could you ask for in a location?” Graffen said.


Neighborhood boost
That location — near downtown, near an area of some blight — is important for future development in the area, Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman said.

“Just having the land that was packaged for the Boys and Girls Club … and all the activity that comes with it will be a great improvement for that area and that neighborhood,” Bosman said.

Bosman said he hopes features such as the indoor soccer facility can lure tournaments and bring visitors to the area. And he sees the facility as a gathering place for all of Kenosha’s residents.

“It will be an amenity that is enjoyed by people throughout the community,” Bosman said. “No matter what age group you are, there will be some kind of programming for everyone in the community. … And it is certainly an investment in our children.”

Graffen said the club hopes to add baseball and softball fields at the site.


Inclusive building
Graffen said the goal is to make the building as inclusive as possible.

“You shouldn’t have a facility directed for just one purpose,” Graffen said. “This is for every walk of life.”

Graffen is looking forward to seeing the years of planning become a reality over the next few months, but mostly for being able to see people realize the potential of the building.

“I so look forward to seeing the first time that a kid swipes their card and starts using the game room or shooting hoops,” Graffen said. “That’s what I look forward to the most. We all just look forward to seeing kids take advantage of this facility.”


Updated on February 1, 2011

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Denzel Washington speaks out on Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Actor Denzel Washington recently published an article through CNN about his experiences being mentored at a Boys and Girls Club as a child. The article is available at CNN’s Web Site.


Updated on January 5, 2011

Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha 1330 52nd Street Kenosha, WI 53140 262.654.6200 | WEATHER HOTLINE: 262.653.7354