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Children’s Awards Banquet

The 2022 Children’s Awards Banquet celebrated the many accomplishments of our kids throughout the 2021-2022 academic year. There were awards determined by grades, but there were also awards voted for by staff and even one voted for by the kids. Our children loved supporting and cheering for one another. The 2021-2022 winners are listed below.


Congratulations Class of 2022!

Congratulations to the class of 2022! We are so proud of our high school graduates, and we celebrate this milestone they have accomplished. Graduation marks a transition into adulthood, and as these graduates enter this next chapter of their lives, BGC is excited to continue to support them as members of our College & Career program. 

Adrian

Adrian came to BGC in 2017. He was new to Waller ISD, but he made friends by joining the wrestling team his junior year and choir his senior year. He enjoyed both activities, especially the choir trips. Adrian was feeling a little nervous about graduation, but he is looking forward to attending Texas State University, where he will be studying business with a minor in interior design. 

Favorite BGC memory: Playing sardines in Cottage 8 when the lights went out due to Hurricane Harvey in 2017

Favorite scripture: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

Anilay          

Anilay has been a part of our BGC family for six years. He enjoyed high school and was looking forward to graduation. In high school, Anilay played soccer, football and ran track. His hobbies include music, movies and sleeping. After graduation, Anilay will be attending Lone Star College to study business and marketing. 

Favorite BGC memory: Playing with the other boys and going to the home of his “auntie” (his teaching parent’s sister)

Favorite scripture: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Jayden

Jayden came to BGC in 2017. He enjoyed his high school experience and will miss his friends. During high school, Jayden played basketball and participated in teen court. He also worked at Urban Air, Kroger and Resale With a Purpose. Jayden enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and eating—his favorite food is Takis. Jayden plans to work in welding and looks forward to traveling. 

Favorite BGC memory: Preparing for the cottage light decorating contest at Christmas

Favorite scripture: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Michelle

Michelle has lived at BGC for five years. Throughout high school, Michelle ran cross country and track, participated in a cosmetology certification program and volunteered at Turlington Elementary School. In her spare time, she enjoys running and painting. Michelle is going to attend Lone Star College for two years to obtain her basic credits, and she then plans on transferring to complete a degree in mortuary science. 

Favorite BGC Memory: Spring Festival 

Favorite Scripture: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Regina 

Regina has been a part of the BGC family for more than ten years. Regina enjoys playing sports and participated in volleyball, track and basketball in high school. She described her high school years as “bumpy,” but she really enjoyed her senior year. She was super excited about graduation but will miss her two best friends. Regina will attend Georgia State University.  

Favorite BGC memory: Spring Festival 

Favorite scripture: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7


Deven’s Graduation

We are so proud of Deven for graduating with his Associate of Science degree from Marion Military Institute! Deven has not let a traumatic past and education gap hold him back from pursuing his dreams, and we are honored to call him part of our Boys and Girls Country family.

Deven’s early years were surrounded by drugs, crime and abuse. Statistics said that he was likely to be a high school dropout or end up in prison. However, God had bigger plans for him, and he came to live at BGC at the age of 14. 

When Deven arrived, he was behind his peers academically. He credits BGC for helping him to strive for a brighter future by supporting him academically and emotionally.  

“I would like to give many thanks to all the donors, sponsors, teaching parents, mentors, friends, family members and brothers and sisters through Christ who made the opportunity to pursue a higher education possible,” Deven said.  “If it weren’t for your support, love, courage and commitment to my future and success, I would not have had the opportunity I did.”

Deven’s associate degree is not the end of his pursuit for higher education. He is working toward the completion of an undergraduate degree while he continues to serve on active duty in the U.S. Army.

“I have aspirations to one day serve as a commissioned officer and use my position of leadership and influence to positively influence the lives of those around me through selfless service,” Deven said.

His long-term plan is to attend law school. He wants to focus on fighting crimes against children and special victims or narcotics trafficking.

We are blessed to be able to support Deven on his journey through life and higher education.


Vince’s View

Message from the Chief Executive Officer

Over the last two years, residential programs like Boys and Girls Country have experienced significant changes in supervision requirements and family engagement. The Family First Prevention Services Act {FFPSA) was recently enacted to turn the focus of the current child welfare system toward keeping children safely with their families instead of out-of-home placement. This new legislation and a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas have been front and center in the media as of late.

The importance of growing up with immediate family or relatives can never be matched by residential care or a foster home. Some of our kids have a layer of support through a guardian or a relative living in the community. They have frequent off-campus visits throughout the year with their loved ones. However, for some of our kids who have no family or safe place to visit, BGC is a stable and loving place that they call home. Sadly, there will always be kids who fall into this category. Thankfully, the doors of our home will always be open for them.

As an organization, we are taking further steps to help the families of our kids and share with them helpful resources and services. This year we have added Family Enrichment Days on campus. These are weekend events where parents and guardians can come and participate in interactive workshops and team-building exercises that enhance parenting skills. Our successful model of care doesn’t have to be a secret to our donors or community. BGC has been blessed with state-of-the art facilities that support our education and counseling programs. We have hired experts in our field in order to meet and exceed best practices in residential care. Our program model is evidence-based and nationally-accredited. As the leader of BGC, it is my honor to showcase our program’s results and impeccable reputation in the community.

The New Testament reminds us that, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

I have always said that taking care of God’s children is kingdom business, and I cannot think of a better investment than the BGC mission. Whether a child lives with us for six months or six years, we will give them love, faith, a warm bed and a safe place to call home.

Vincent Duran

Chief Executive Officer


Equine Therapy Offers Outlet for Kids

The majority of children arrive at Boys and Girls Country (BGC) with trauma from poverty, abuse, neglect, the loss of a close family member or witnessing violence in the home. Over half of our kids are in counseling. One of the important goals that we work on as an organization is to help our children overcome their past and learn coping skills.

We are blessed to have a partnership with the JoyRide Center allowing six of our kids to participate in equine therapy, a special form of therapy involving horses. Our kids love working with them, and it is beneficial in many ways.

“Equine therapy helps the kids learn how to be safe with horses, how to take care of the animals and form connections with them,” BJ Barksdale, the clinical director at BGC, said.  

The eight-week program began with the horses each walking up to the kid whom they wanted to work with.  All of the kids have created special bonds with their horses and look forward to working with them.

“I was having a hard day, but everything was okay once I arrived at JoyRide,” Emma said.

Each week, the kids are given different activities and tasks. For example, the kids went into the pastures and had to “capture their horse” (get the horse’s attention) without enticing them with any food. They had to accomplish the task with only the grooming tools that they learned how to use the previous week.

Equine therapy is about mutual care between a child and a horse. As the kids brushed their horses, they talked to them. Some really opened up about any stressors they were facing in their life. The moods of the kids changed as they brushed and bonded with their horses. Many of them appeared much calmer and more relaxed after this activity.

The next task was a team task of working together to halter one horse in each pasture and then walk the horse to the arena. The difficulty level of haltering the horses varied greatly, but at no point, did anyone give up. Instead, the kids listened to the advice from the instructors and calmly assisted one another.  

By the end of the session, the mood had shifted from one of restlessness to relaxed and joyful. The kids came together to talk about their experience and discussed how it related to what was happening in their lives.

Some questions asked during the processing session included — what happens in life when you walk away from situations rather than facing them, what could be learned from this activity and how do you respond to God’s will. The kids also discussed how their horse’s personality is similar to their own.

“My horse is like me because she’s sensitive, and she’s also in survival mode,” Claire said.

These connections with the horses allow our kids to open up about themselves and share the struggles they are facing.

Equine therapy is wonderful for our kids, and we are so thankful that the JoyRide center partners with BGC, so that our kids can be a part of this therapeutic activity. We are also thankful to our clinical staff, BJ Barksdale and Naomi Austin, for helping to spearhead this activity and also for being at every session to help our kids process their emotions.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our children.


Tokio Marine’s Dedication to BGC

Providing a loving, stable home for children from families in crisis is only possible with the support of our devoted donors. Tokio Marine HCC (TMHCC) has been an advocate for our children for many years. Their involvement began with sponsoring Boys and Girls Country’s (BGC) annual bike ride, Pedal for a Purpose, and their involvement has grown to sponsoring a cottage at Christmas and offering to match employee donations to BGC. We are thankful that their chief financial officer Tom Weist recommended BGC as a charity to support.

“When I first moved to Houston in 2011, I bought a bike from Bike Barn in Cypress. They had a group ride every Saturday morning, which I joined,” Weist said. “In 2013 or 2014, the store manager mentioned the BGC charity ride. Bike Barn was providing free services to riders and was helping to raise awareness. I brought this to Chris Williams’ (TMHCC’s former CEO) attention as he was looking for charity events where we could participate. He liked the charity and the event, so we sponsored. The rest is history.”

TMHCC looks forward to Pedal for a Purpose every year. Their employees volunteer at rest stops along the ride to pass out snacks and cheer on the riders. One of the riders in Pedal for a Purpose is the executive vice president of TMHCC, Mark Callahan.

“It is a great route for a great cause,” Callahan said. “Boys and Girls Country provides lasting long-term benefits to the Houston economy by intervening in the lives of local children through their programs. Taking a ride in the middle of the Texas spring can help save lives.”

In addition to sponsoring Pedal for a Purpose, TMHCC sponsors a BGC cottage family at Christmas. They devote their time and resources as a team to make sure our kids have the best Christmas possible. The celebration comes with a delicious meal, the gifts that our kids hope for and a time of fellowship. These celebrations create memories that our kids carry throughout their lives. The TMHCC team shared that they receive overwhelming joy when they see the smiles on our kids’ faces who open their gifts and experience the true magic of Christmas fellowship as a family. Christmas 2021 marked six years of their support, and TMHCC is planning on supporting BGC further in 2022.

We are also blessed to receive funds from TMHCC who has a matching program for its employees. When employers match donations, it not only helps to raise more vital funds for our program, but it also encourages employees to give back to their community.

“As part of our Good Company values, we are committed to making a positive impact through meaningful change for the communities in which we live and work,” marketing associate, Casie Majewski said. “We implemented the Impact Program (through Benevity’s Spark platform) to make giving easier and to provide a fun and easy way to give time or money to causes that matter to TMHCC and our employees.”

We feel so blessed to have the support of TMHCC through the years. Their generous support changed the lives of many children, and we look forward to our continued partnership.


A Joyous Day of Baptisms

We are so proud of our girls from Cottage 2 who made the decision to get baptized and dedicate their lives to Christ! They were baptized by Pastor Anthony Solano on Sunday, January 30 at Champion Forest Baptist Church – Jersey Village.

Faith is an important part of life at Boys and Girls Country, which was founded on Christian principles. Our founder, Tom Robinson, wrote Jack Brewer, the first Executive Director, a letter (which remains on the wall of the CEO’s office) asking him to “guide the staff in its spiritual activities, which you and I both consider to be the most important effort at Boys Country. I want our boys to leave us as strong dedicated Christians.” Since 1971, many boys and girls came to know Christ while living at BGC.

The choice of baptism is a personal decision that is made by the BGC children. The Cottage 2 girls were each called in their own way to make this life-changing decision.

Zhya felt a calling to be baptized after she went through a difficult time and sought consolation from her teaching parent. She was reminded that God is there for her, and God is going to lead her on the path He has planned for her.

Hannah has actually been baptized before, but she decided to be baptized again.

“I had a really big leap in faith,” Hannah said. “I’ve been reading my Bible more, and I want to devote my life to God, and baptism symbolizes publicly showing your faith. I really wanted to show people this big step in my faith.”

Liya also credits her teaching parent for learning about baptism. Once she understood the meaning behind it, the decision came quickly.

“I wanted to do it because I want to be saved,” Liya said.

Many of the girls mentioned that their teaching parent helped them through struggles by guiding them about how to turn to God in difficult times. It is so important that our kids have Christian leaders in their lives who teach them about the power of the daily Scripture reading and fellowship with the church family and each other.

The teaching parent who worked with the girls was new to BGC and only spent a few months at the cottage, but the results were already fruitful. “I honestly believe that the Lord sent me to BGC for this purpose. I was just being obedient and let the Lord do the work,” she commented after the girls’ baptisms.

It’s a great honor to see our kids commit their lives to following Christ. It takes a village to help our kids grow physically, mentally and spiritually, and we are blessed to have partners like you to keep our mission going. Thank you for your continued prayers for our organization and all of the members of the BGC family.  


First Christmas at BGC

Christmas at Boys and Girls Country (BGC) is a magical time filled with celebrations, presents, fellowship and love. It is special to see the excitement and joy through the eyes of a kid who is new to BGC like Shiloh. For so many kids who come to BGC, Christmas is associated with the pain and abuse they experienced in the past. We are blessed that when they come here they have a new family to help them create happy memories.

Shiloh’s first Christmas at BGC began with a visit to Color Me Mine, where he painted with his BGC friends and met Santa. The next celebration was the San Jacinto High Rollers’ annual toy run. As the club members paraded by on their motorcycles, Shiloh waved and cheered. He said he had never seen so many motorcycles in one place!

When it came to decorating his cottage, Shiloh was thrilled with the theme his cottage family selected: the movie “Elf.” He wore a custom T-shirt along with his cottage brothers, and everyone was given a role to play for the Tour of Lights event. Their hard work decorating the cottage paid off because they won second place! The boys were all smiles that night.

Day of Wonder is when sponsors of each cottage celebrate Christmas with the cottage families with food, gifts, a festive activity and the birth story of Jesus. “We opened our presents, made gingerbread houses, and then we ate some yummy food,” Shiloh said.

Many of our kids visit their family for Christmas, but it’s not always the case depending on the situation at home. On Christmas day, Shiloh celebrated at a staff member’s house with a friend from BGC. They played outside in the beautiful weather, enjoyed some of their new toys and tried their first traditional Christmas dinner.

Thanks to all of the generous donors and supporters of BGC, Shiloh not only had an amazing time celebrating Christmas, but he received a number of exciting presents. Some of his favorites are his new LEGO Technic set, remote-controlled car, robot set and coding set.

When asked how his first Christmas at BGC was, Shiloh said, “it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Thank you for helping our kids grow up in a loving and stable family environment.


Friday Night Cheers for #22

Texas high school football is a big deal, and our kids take pride in being on a team. Just like other young men in high schools all around the state, our kids dream and prepare for their opportunity to shine in front of family, friends and the school they represent. There is a sense of pride in representing your school and coaches. It takes years of hard work in the weight room, on the practice field and off-season to get to play on Friday. 

At Boys and Girls Country, there is a promising young man whom everybody calls “Gee.” Gee is a 7th grader playing football for the first time at the school level. His Teaching Parents describe him as a young man obsessed with football and sports in general. Sometimes he is really hard on himself about sports as he strives to be the best!

In his home opener, Gee had several tackles, an interception and a smile as big as Texas over his team’s victory against a strong Magnolia team. Even though he started the game with butterflies in his stomach, Gee got more confident the more he played. When asked what he liked about football, he could not help but mention his favorite team, the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Tyreek Hill is my favorite player, and I like to watch him catch and run the ball.” Gee also said, “I liked tackling and catching my first interception.”

Gee said that the coach was encouraging the team to “play to win.” We know that in 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Gee understands that the lesson of this verse is to give 100% and not give up; not just in sports but also in life. Gee will be one of the boys to watch for in the years to come as he works toward being a Waller Bulldog playing under Friday night lights. Ultimately, he strives to be a leader off the field as well.

Gee wears the #22 in honor of his family.  His dad wore the number in soccer, and his older brother also wore the special number. He does not think much about the crowd during the game but said it was nice to have people cheering and supporting him.

Keep up the hard work, stick to the values you are instilled with and always continue smiling because it brings so much joy to those around you, Gee! Go Bulldogs!

by Richard Proctor, BGC Director of Campus Ministries


Give Hope To Children This Christmas

Originally from the island of Trinidad, Jacob’s mother was abandoned by his father when he was just a baby. When a new man appeared in her life, there was no space for Jacob anymore as her new husband didn’t want to raise somebody else’s child. Just like that, Jacob ended up on the streets of Trinidad at the age of four. Sick and malnourished, he was taken in by a kind woman whom he would grow up to call ‘Auntie.’ Not only did she take him to the hospital and help him get well, but she arranged for his adoption to her family members in the United States.

Life with his adopted family was beautiful. His parents enrolled him in a private school, and they were very involved in church. He remembers a lot of fun times as a family going to amusement parks, on walks and for drives together. However, things took a quick turn when his mom was diagnosed with cancer. The family battled through seven tumultuous years of treatment until she developed an inoperable tumor and passed away.

Jacob was unable to cope with the loss despite his father’s best efforts to help. Instead of grieving, he buried his emotions and started acting out, defying instruction and guidance. His grades deteriorated rapidly, but Jacob didn’t care. When his dad could no longer manage, Jacob was placed at Boys and Girls Country (BGC).

At BGC, Jacob was provided the resources and support needed to learn how to deal with anger. He is grateful for his teaching parent, Mr. Paul, modeling how to be a man and for the fond memories with his cottage family on trips to Needville for dinner and fellowship.

After years of anger and hurt, Jacob learned how to process his emotions and grew closer to God. Through the patience and understanding of teaching parents and mentors, Jacob saw that their relationships with God were genuine, and they truly wanted him to succeed. Jacob was able to restore the relationship with his adoptive father and find peace with all that he endured as a child.

Even when Jacob was alone on the streets of Trinidad as a toddler and suffering in silence after being abandoned by his mother, God saw his future and knew the plans He had to prosper him. We are blessed that his path led him to BGC.

As a College and Career student at BGC, Jacob is a junior at Texas Lutheran University. He has made everyone proud by overcoming his past and fighting hard for his future. “My plans are to graduate with a degree in Rehabilitation Science and Kinesiology with a minor in Psychology. I’ll then get my master’s in Kinesiology, and my goal is to become a physical therapist.” Currently the chapter treasurer of the Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity, Jacob is thriving in school. His positive outlook and hard work ethic will help him achieve his dreams, and he is an inspiration to everyone who knows him.

Without the help of our partners and friends, these dreams would never be a possibility for young men and women like Jacob. At BGC, we help kids who have experienced various forms of trauma. Although their wounds are different and their paths are unique, we provide the love, support and prayer each child needs to thrive as a successful adult.

This Christmas, your generosity can bring peace and joy to the children who desperately need support. Donations of any amount will help us deliver gifts of healing, prayer and a stable home for the children placed at BGC. Please consider giving a one-time or recurring monthly gift today, and be the reason more kids like Jacob can overcome their traumatic pasts and grow up to be successful and optimistic adults.