Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association

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The Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association is raising money to support young men and women who are members of the organization. Henry Olea, president of the Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association and Victor Hernandez, board member with the association talk about the history of Arizona’s first Boys & Girls Club and what the association is doing to help kids who are involved in the organization.

JOSE CARDENAS: The Boys and Girls Club Alumni Association is raising money to support young men and women who are members of the boys and girls club of metropolitan Phoenix. Joining me to talk about the association is Henry Olea, president of the Boys and Girls Club Alumni Association. And Victor Hernandez, treasurer of the association. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

HENRY OLEA: Thank you for having us.

JOSE CARDENAS: Henry, you're not only the founder of the alumni foundation. You're basically one of the founding members of the boys club because that's what it was originally, it wasn't boys and girls until 1990. But of the original boys club in Phoenix, Arizona. That's back in 1946.

HENRY OLEA: 1946.

JOSE CARDENAS: And we've got some pictures we want to show, show what a handsome young boy you were at the time. The first one is a picture of you and a couple of other buddies. Which one are you in the picture?

HENRY OLEA: That's me on the right. And then on the left and Hector Martinez in the center. The boys club at one time used to go out and get sponsors to send kids to camp. And we did one to the YMCA camp for 10 days.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you were some of the first ones. We've got another picture of I think it's a film session, there's a projector in the back. This is about the same time period as well, right?

HENRY OLEA: Correct.

JOSE CARDENAS: And where are you in that picture? You're the guy with the gum?

HENRY OLEA: With the gum and the guy next to me, he was from the welfare, my aunt used to bring in welfare kids and stay at the house. And quite a few other people in the picture, very well known, and they have movies and we would go to movies at the boys club.

JOSE CARDENAS: And our last picture is one that actually has a lot of significance and meaning and this is one of the activities that the boys would engage in, a boxing match?

HENRY OLEA: Yes.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you're not one of the boxers but you're the guy in the back with your arm up.

HENRY OLEA: Yes. With my hand up, chuck is one of the boxers, the boys club had a exceptionally good boxing club and we used to compete with the boys from the golden gate and also from the west side boys club and the other areas from the Madison park and we traveled quite a bit.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you specifically became quite the boxer, golden gloves champion in the regional areas and so forth and eventually a professional boxing career, too?

HENRY OLEA: Yes, I did. I held the title here in the golden glove championship for three years, in the lightweight division and then 1959 I turned professional. After fighting in the national competition in Chicago, Illinois.

JOSE CARDENAS: Where you ran across a young boxer named Cassius Clay at the time.

HENRY OLEA: He was light heavyweight in 1959 and then in 1960 again, I won enough tournaments to be a fighter in the national, and then he fought as a heavyweight then.

JOSE CARDENAS: I want to come back and talk about the impact beyond boxing that the boys club had on your life but before I do that, Victor, you remember the club, not the same vintage as Henry, but tell us about your involvement.

VICTOR HERNANDEZ: Yes, I went to the - which is off of 6th Ave and Southern 6667, and it was somewhere for us to hang out. That's I guess where we kind of grew together and I got to meet a lot of our kids. The boys clubs are very diverse. So that's the plus. What I really enjoyed about the boys club. When I was invited to attend something later on, once I left, I just forget about the boys club but when I was invited by these gentlemen, plus my father was a member also, I attended one of their meetings and once I heard their meeting was going on and I kind of felt and I saw the passion that they had and right there at that moment I said you know what? Sign me up. I want to become a boys club alumni member and before you know it, I'm with the board and helping them out raise money for the kids.

JOSE CARDENAS: We want to talk about some of the functions you guys are doing but before I do that, the organization -- the alumni association is something you got started with some meetings in the late '70s?

HENRY OLEA: In 1977, the first reunion I had after a tremendous amount of names and addresses and phone numbers of members that I knew back in 1946 and at the moment we have 252 people on our roster that we mailed out invitations to our reunion.

JOSE CARDENAS: And among the things you do is hold fundraisers to support the ongoing work of what is now the boys and girls club?

HENRY OLEA: Correct, we donate quite a bit of money there and we also -- the Christmas program, every boys club, there's 13 of them and we donate over $200 each for a Christmas party for each boys club and we do a tremendous amount. I think the last time we did about $4,500 for the program for the kids.

JOSE CARDENAS: And another event, coming up on October 10th.

HENRY OLEA: Yes.

JOSE CARDENAS: So let me ask you, Victor, in the time we have left, give us kind of a sense for what boys and girls clubs are doing these days. How big are they? We've got about a minute left.

VICTOR HERNANDEZ: Right now, currently there's like 13 boys clubs in the metro Phoenix with the dental clinic. And also on an annual basis, I hear there's about 24,000 kids that go through the doors of the boys and girls club and out of that 24,000 there's like 280,000 meals that are served annually to these kids.

JOSE CARDENAS: Still making a big difference in a lot of lives of young people and one of the things you and I talked a little bit about off-camera and want to touch on this quickly, even more diverse than it was before and it's not only Latino kids and Anglo kids and black kids but a lot of immigrants from countries other than Mexico.

VICTOR HERNANDEZ: We were at a ribbon cutting on September 25th, we opened up a new boys and girls club opened up a new club within the office and at that speech I heard at that school, there's like 24 different languages spoken in that area. And I was just amazed. I said wow, I didn't realize that.

JOSE CARDENAS: I want to touch on this before we run out of time. Youth of the year is a young woman --

VICTOR HERNANDEZ: Sierra Leone, Africa.

JOSE CARDENAS: That's great and what you guys are doing is great and we really appreciate you joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it. Congratulations on all your work.

HENRY OLEA: Thank you for having us.

JOSE CARDENAS: And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and your Arizona PBS station, thanks for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

VIDEO: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight members of your Arizona PBS station.

Henry Olea: President of the Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association, Victor Hernandez: Board Member of the Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association

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