Boys & Girls Club introduces new programs, cuts membership fee in half


As part of the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour’s strategic planning process, a survey revealed people want places to go and things to do.

Some of them said the facility at 950 N. O’Brien St. is great, but it’s a shame it’s not used more.

Executive Director Ryon Wheeler, who has been in that role for a year, talked to the board of directors and parents to determine what changes needed to be made.

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“What our vision is going toward with this club is that the Boys & Girls Club mission is first, but how do we strengthen that?” Wheeler said. “We strengthen that by having healthy families and healthy activities for people to do and just positive outlets, so if we can extend that, we’re going to.”

The first big change was cutting the annual membership fee in half. It went from $100 to $50.

For some parents at the start of the school year, they may not be able to afford a $100 membership after paying for book rental and school supplies for their children, Wheeler said.

“We went back and looked at the finances, and when we increased fees over $50, we lost members,” he said. “So looking back at that, we decided that $50 fee is when we had our most members coming. … We went to the $50 fee, and then if parents can give more, we’re going to try to engage them as donors, not transactional. We’re going to get to know our families better.”

Money should not be a deterrent for kids to come to the club, Wheeler said.

“If a kid walked in off the street, they should be able to say, ‘Hey, can I come here?’ and never should be turned away,” he said. “We never turn anybody away for inability to pay. We never will.”

Reducing the membership fee has resulted in average daily attendance going from 90 a year ago to 140, Wheeler said.

The club also has extended teen hours. There used to be a teen night once a month, but now, it’s offered from 6 to 7 p.m. every weekday.

There’s a dedicated area upstairs just for them with a dedicated teen staff, and they are the only ones in the facility at that time.

“There’s not always stuff to do in this town for teenagers, so we want to have a positive outlet for them to come and let them tell us what they want,” Wheeler said.

Nationwide in the last seven years, Wheeler said teen membership numbers have dropped. Last year, though, Boys & Girls Clubs saw the numbers increase.

“Sometimes, you just want to hang out and listen to music and get away,” Wheeler said. “We’re hoping to offer that to kids, and then transition them into some job skills type stuff so they can get a job, keep it and do well.”

Another big focus is on programming.

Starting Sept. 10, the yearlong programs will include ballet, Fit 365, Indiana Kids, STEM and makerspace, Master Chef and art.

Southern Indiana Center for the Arts has offered ballet classes in recent years, but the facility has limited space and has been operating without a director. Wheeler told instructor Carin Spalla she could offer the classes at the club, which allowed for two more classes for kids.

This is the club’s only class that costs extra ($5 per class). The class will be from 5 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and is limited to 10 members.

For the Fit 365 program, the club is teaming with Healthy Jackson County. It will focus on self-improvement and personal bests and include a variety of activities that may be new to kids, Wheeler said.

“It’s using the President’s Challenge as a pre- and post-test model, and then United Way’s Play 60 concept of 60 minutes a day keeps you healthy, so we’re just going to be tracking that, and we’ll do monthly program type stuff,” he said.

“We know that obesity rates in children are high in this county, and we just want to keep kids active without trying to emphasize sports and athletics and competition,” he said.

Makerspace will include robotics, three-dimensional printers and science, technology, engineering and math activities. Cummins Inc. has helped the club with equipment.

Wheeler said he wants kids to get a taste of Seymour High School’s Owl Manufacturing program.

“Owl Manufacturing is such an amazing program, but some kids don’t even know what it is,” he said. “They’ve not touched those types of things, so if we can let kids dabble in that and by the time they get there, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is so cool,’ their learning curve isn’t as steep. Just creating that desire and introducing that at a young age, there’s a lot of other benefits from it. That’s what we’re hoping to do is plant that seed.”

Indiana Kids is a statewide after-school tutoring program aimed at helping children increase the quality and quantity of homework they complete and help improve student behavior and attitudes about school and learning.

Kids will be pre- and post-tested in reading and math to determine their levels.

“On average, kids jump 1.8 years in reading and 1.3 years in math, and kids just excel,” Wheeler said. “We’re not teaching them. It’s not school. We’re just trying to get them into positive study habits and introduce them to new careers, and we’ve seen that by doing that, their reading and math proficiency jumps through the roof.”

Master Chef will be for fourth-graders through high-schoolers, while Master Chef Jr. will be for kindergarten through third grade. Kids will learn how to make easy, healthy snacks on their own and be introduced to life skills.

With art, four classes will be offered, broken down by grade levels. Boys & Girls Club of America offers a national fine arts competition in eight different mediums, and Wheeler hopes this will encourage kids to enter.

A Boys & Girls Club staff member will lead classes for kindergarten through fifth grade, and Georgiann Coons from the arts center will teach teen fine arts for fourth- through 12th-graders.

The rest of the programs will be offered on seven- or eight-week rotations.

Bible study will consist of reading stories from a children’s Bible. The goal is to teach kids the major stories of the Bible and educate them on the Old Testament and New Testament.

SMART Girls is a national program that offers young women ages 8 to 17 guidance toward healthy attitudes and lifestyles, eating right, staying fit, getting good health care and more.

Passport to Manhood promotes and teaches responsibility in boys ages 8 to 17. There will be 14 sessions, each of which concentrate on a specific aspect of manhood through highly interactive activities.

“This is just our first step into outcome-driven programming,” Wheeler said. “We’ve done programs and activities for a long time, but we’re hoping to track these and see if these help with behaviors, attitudes, aptitudes, just help kids learn and grow.”

The strategic planning process also involves more facility use.

That will start with offering an tots indoor playground for ages 0 to 5. That will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays starting Sept. 10. The $30 per semester is for two children and two adults, and it’s only $5 more for each additional child.

An open house is set for 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Thursday for people to find out more about the playground. The club purchased equipment from SENSEational Kids after that business closed and bought other equipment through a Healthy Jackson County grant.

“We’re trying to make sure that kids have a healthy outlet during those winter months,” Wheeler said. “It’s going to start raining and snowing, and kids need to run around and play.”

The club also is formalizing its lunchtime offerings for adults.

For several years, Walmart Distribution Center employees have come in on their days off to play basketball, and Cummins Inc. workers play volleyball in the gymnasium. They pay a facility rental fee to use the space.

Wheeler said the plan is to offer more lunch-break activities for a small fee so people can come in and get exercise.

“We want the building to be used. It’s here,” he said. “Right now, we’re currently running it four hours out of the day. We’ve got 20 other hours to use, and people in this community need things to do. The hard part is we’ve got to pay to keep this place open, and our budget is almost half a million dollars a year, so there are going to be some costs associated, but we’re trying to keep it low to cover the costs of what we have.”

Wheeler said the club is fortunate to have people in the community who support its efforts and a board that has had good people and been financially sound for many years.

“What we’re trying to do is grow what the Boys & Girls Club can be in this community,” he said. “The Boys & Girls club mission hasn’t changed much in 150 years, 70 years locally, but what programs and activities can we continue to add? We’re not going to change our core values, but we can continue to add stuff to help enhance it, and that’s what we’re looking at doing.”

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New programs at the Boys & Girls Club running Sept. 10 to Oct. 22

Program;Ages/Grades;Dates and Times;Maximum participants

Fit 365;6 to 18;4 p.m. weekdays;100-plus

Bible study;3rd and up;4 to 5 p.m. Mondays;12

Master Chef Jr.;K through 3rd;4 to 5 p.m. Mondays;15

SMART Girls;2nd and up;4 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays;15

Art 101;K and 1st;4 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays;8

Art 102;2nd and 3rd;4 to 5 p.m. Thursdays;11

Art 103;4th and 5th;4 to 5 p.m. Fridays;15

Passport to Manhood;2nd and up;4 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays;15

STEM/Makerspace;K through 3rd;4 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays;20

Master Chef;4th through 12th;4 to 5 p.m. Fridays;20

Indiana Kids;6 to 18;Every weekday;100-plus

Ballet;K through 12th;5 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays;10

Teen fine arts;4th through 12th;4 to 5 p.m. Fridays;12

STEM/Makerspace;4th and 5th;4 to 5 p.m. Thursdays;20

Registration week for fall programming runs from Tuesday to Friday at the club, 950 N. O’Brien St., Seymour.

For information, call 812-522-2434, visit or or email [email protected].

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A new tots indoor playground for ages 0 to 5 opens Sept. 10 at the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour, 950 N. O’Brien St.

It will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays. The $30 per semester is for two children and two adults, and it’s only $5 more for each additional child.

An open house is set for 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Thursday for people to find out more about the playground.


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