John Grall’s speech for ‘A Night of Angels’ fund-raiser

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It was a cold rainy night when my mom said “grab an umbrella, we’re going somewhere special.”I was hesitant to leave my house to go out into the storm. As we walked, my mom shared with me the story of a mother’s loss of her three sons and how she channeled her grief and pain into a love and passion to build a place to keep all kids safe, and to develop them into productive and responsible adults. Where we went that night was a port in a storm, for me and hundreds of kids. That place is the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club.

The Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club was built on a foundation of love and hope and will forever be touched with the spirit of children and a mother’s love.

My name is John Grall and I was 6 years old the night my mom took my hand and we walked into that warm caring place. I am proud not only to be a member but also a volunteer of the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club.

I am honored to be here tonight to celebrate three people who are living guardian angels of the children at the Jack, Will and Rob Club, Ms. Linda Hickey, Mr. Hank Swigert and Mr. Brot Bishop. It is because of their generosity, that I’ve had a safe place to call my own, my home away from home where I hang out, make friends, learned to play chess and soccer, and now to give back as a mentor to those who need me most. Everyone in this room has made that a reality for thousands of kids.

Art, music and education are some of the great things offered at the Jack Will & Rob Club. The evening my mom walked me there, we went to see an art exhibit of a young Camas girl. I walked in and was amazed! It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. At 6 years old, I could not believe that a place this beautiful was made for kids.

My mom pointed out Mrs. Bidwell, the mother of the three boys, and I went up and thanked her for this amazing gift. I have never forgotten that night, or how I felt. It is the same way every kid feels when they enter the JWR Club. Amazement and shock, that this is “ours!”

I still keep the promise I made to my mom that night on our way home, which is… as I enter through the doors of the club I always say a quiet “thank you” and think of the three boys that I never had the good fortune to meet, but will always consider my friends.

At the club, I had the opportunity to read Mr. Ray Hickey’s book, “Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done” and Mr. Hickey shares a story of our own guardian angel, Linda Hickey who started her legacy of giving as a young girl on the Little League field. As her dad would coach, she would pick up trash. For each full bag, she would get a snow cone. Ms. Hickey grew up in an environment of giving led by her mother and father. Growing up with such a constant example made her want to give back.

Some of the kids that go to the Boys & Girls Club do not have that constant example in their homes. Many kids, like myself, do learn about giving back, down the street at their local Boys & Girls Club. They grow up, as I did, seeing the generosity of the volunteers who help them with their homework, or coach their sports teams. We learn about giving as we grow up and realize that it is the generous financial contributions of strangers that help keep the lights on, the heat going, and pay for the equipment we use at our Boys & Girls Clubs. As we get older, we will be the adults filling these seats. We will be giving back to our community due in part to the example that you are setting for us here tonight. A lesson we may not have learned if our local Boys & Girls Club was not there for us growing up.

I am going to put that lesson to work tonight, I want to help my Boys & Girls Club continue to make a difference in the lives of kids like me and the 25,000 other kids served and saved by the Boys & Girls Club. I have saved up my money from my paper route and babysitting and would like to give tonight. In the years to come, I plan to work hard and raise my earnings to continue to give to my Boys & Girls Club.

As you walk across the gym at the JWR Club, there is a quote painted on the floor from Mr. Ray Hickey, who had made our gym possible for all the kids at the club. As I see this quote every day, it inspires me to think and want to do more for the club and our community, as it notes: “What we need here is a little less wishbone and a little more backbone.”

Who else is going to have the backbone that our clubs need, and join me in making a difference tonight?

The Kids need the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club, I need the Boys & Girls Club.