Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas celebrates the season with Christmas with The Connection – providing young club members with authentic holiday festivities and a Christmas to remember.
By KD Reep | Photography by Dero Sanford
Unassuming, down-to-earth with an easy smile and manner to match, Chad Brown immediately makes you feel like you’ve known him all your life. It’s a trait that serves him well at work and in the community as he spends time with the kids of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas.
Chad grew up in Sherwood playing football, baseball and running track. As a teenager, he and his friends looked for a place to play basketball and discovered the Boys & Girls Club in North Little Rock where his father was a volunteer coach. Chad moved on to play football at Harvard University.
In 2007, Chad graduated with a degree in economics and returned to Arkansas to work at Alltel as an analyst. Today, he is the research director at Circumference Group, which invests in technology and telecommunications stocks. For the past two years, he’s served on the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas and is a member of their young professionals committee: The Connection.
“Chad is such a tremendous asset to our organization,” says Cindy Doramus, chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas. “He seems somewhat quiet, but when he speaks and moves into action – things start to happen!”
The Connection cultivates volunteerism, develops future leaders and supports the mission fulfillment of Boys & Girls Club – bridging the gap between school and home for children six to 18 years old. Each year, The Connection hosts a holiday party for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas where club members enjoy holiday festivities. This year, Christmas with The Connection plans for 100 kids to receive gifts at the Thrasher Boys & Girls Club in downtown Little Rock.
“The first year, we had about 25 kids,” Chad explains. “Last year, we had about 50 kids and Nike gave each one a pair of shoes. This year, we are looking to provide gifts and shoes to 100 kids – our goal is to grow Christmas with The Connection each year to serve as many kids as possible.”
During the event the club is decorated for the holidays, and Chad notes that there are usually more sponsors and volunteers than there are children. “The sponsors love to give the kids their gifts and watch their reactions,” he continues. “It’s immediate gratification, and it’s good for both the kids and the adults to see that someone cares and appreciates who they are. That’s what Boys & Girls Club is all about – inspiring and enabling young people to reach their full potential.
Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas operates six clubs with a focus that encourages academic success, good character, citizenship, and a healthy lifestyle among its young members. According to the organization’s 2015 Impact Report, 65,107 kids in the state leave school with nowhere to go every day – unsupervised, unguided and unsafe. The Central Arkansas club has 121 staff members and 250 volunteers who serve almost 9,000 kids annually – the majority of whom are 12 years old or younger, live in single-parent homes and qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.
“Boys & Girls Clubs do so much more than provide after-school care,” Chad says. “They teach life skills – how to get along with others, how to handle conflict, how to focus on goals. The kids say they like the club because it provides a safe place for them, and they develop a relationship with the director and mentors. In fact, the kids who grow up in the Boys & Girls Club program usually go on to serve as mentors after they leave.”
Cindy notes that Christmas with The Connection is especially meaningful to their members. “I am so proud of what Chad and The Connection are doing for the children in our community,” Cindy says. “They spend their time – at the busiest time of the year – to make sure children have a Christmas to remember.”