At eight years of age, Dontae and his mother were homeless and living at a local shelter. Despite their circumstances, Dontae’s mother tried to remain positive and do what she could to help her son excel. Like any mother, she wanted the absolute best for her child.
At the shelter, there were few places for children to play. Dontae and some of the other children would spend time playing games outside on the sidewalk but their safety was always a concern. He noticed that one little girl would get on a bus every day and, when it brought her back, she would always be smiling and happy. He found out that the bus brought her to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club.
“I thought that it really had to be fun. She’s leaving the homeless shelter and coming back happy.” Dontae said. “I asked my mom if I could try to go to the Boys & Girls Club because she’s happy, why can’t I try to be happy?”
Having no money for membership costs, Dontae and his mother went to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club not knowing what to expect. They were welcomed by the staff and delighted to find out that the local advisory organization of The Salvation Army provided scholarships for families that would not otherwise be able to attend.
Dontae quickly became involved in the various programs, including athletic teams and tutoring programs designed to help children excel academically. He built friendships with other members and relationships with caring mentors that have helped to dramatically change his life.
“We do more than just give children a place to go after school.” said James Johnson, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club. “We lift them up. We keep them safe. We connect them with strong mentors. We encourage them to explore their relationship with God. We become an essential part of their lives and they of ours.”
Not only has the Boys & Girls Club helped transform Dontae’s life, it has positioned him in a place where he can reach his full potential. For some children in Dontae’s situation, the prospect of attending college is only a dream. Thanks in part to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, Dontae is now being recruited by several top schools and may potentially receive an athletic scholarship, enabling him to further his education and his athletic career.
“I felt like if I came to The Boys & Girls Club I would be happy and get my mind off of being in the shelter.” Dontae says. “Coming here was the best thing I possibly could have done in life. They made a way for me to come here and, ever since then, it’s been a blessing.”