Fun with a Purpose

Boys & Girls Club provides a safe place for youth
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Chris Mortenson/Staff photographer

Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena is about fun — but with a purpose. 

To maintain that goal, the nonprofit is hosting its 14th annual fundraiser, the Black Tie & Burgers gala, at Centennial Square in front of Pasadena City Hall. 

Themed Back to the ’80s, the event will transport guests to the 1980s, with big hair and shoulder pads along with burgers from The Habit. The event will include auctions; live music from an ’80s cover band; and fundraising opportunities to benefit the club’s programs focused on academic success, healthy lifestyles and character and leadership development.

“We are excited to host our event at a special Pasadena location this year,” says Melina Montoya, Black Tie & Burgers event chair. 

“We can’t wait to bring the Back to the ’80s theme to Pasadena. We all know that the 1980s remind people of bold fashion, great music on cassette tapes, neon colors, iconic celebrities and so much more. This year’s event is also an exciting celebration of the club’s 85th anniversary and all the amazing work that the BGCP has done since 1937.” 

Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena Chief Executive Officer Lisa Cavelier says the night is designed to be fun and meaningful. She is hoping to raise $250,000.

“For years, it’s been in a backyard in Pasadena,” she says. “We moved it out to an iconic place, Centennial Square in front of Pasadena City Hall.

“When it’s lit up at night, there’s no place more Pasadena, more iconic than Pasadena City Hall. Our thinking is we want to showcase ourselves as another icon of Pasadena. For 85 years, we’ve given amazing service to the kids and families of this community.”

Although the event is black tie, it’s playful as well. Men don their tuxedo jackets and may pair them with Bermuda shorts, “fun, striped pants” and blue jeans. It’s all in good fun to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena’s programs. 

“Last year, we blew it out bigger than we ever had,” Cavelier says. “This one is promising to be the same. 

“We had a Cuban theme in 2018. I had just started this job. I saw women in amazing Cuban dresses and men with big cigars and interesting jackets. People do like to dress the theme. With the ’80s, you might see some of that. Last year it was an Italian theme, and it felt so good to be outdoors and gather again. Plus, we had no reports of COVID.”

Since 1937, the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena has enriched the lives of young people in the community, enabling them to reach their full potential as productive, caring, healthy and responsible citizens. 

Annually, the club serves more than 2,000 youth, filling the gap between school and home. It operates four locations in the Pasadena area: Slavik Branch on East Del Mar Boulevard, Mackenzie-Scott Branch on North Fair Oaks Avenue, and two Pasadena/Altadena locations at Odyssey Charter Schools’ North and South campuses.

Cavelier has witnessed challenges and victories throughout her four years with the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena.

Mackenzie-Scott Branch was recently renovated with new paint, flooring, lighting, HVAC and enhanced security. 

“The building looks phenomenal,” Cavelier says. “We increased security in the lobby with a second set of double doors, so visitors have to be clicked through twice to increase that barrier to the kids.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena celebrated the renovations and its 85th anniversary on August 5 with a community birthday party. It gave the public the chance to see the building and enjoy some fun. 

“We had a bounce house and a dunk tank,” she says. “The kids were dunking each other — one teen after the next, one tween after the next. That new event kicked off our whole year of celebrations we’re going to do.” 

Last summer, Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena doubled its footprint, adding two clubhouses to Odyssey Charter Schools, providing care, activities and homework help for more than 270 children. 

“It was an important, new move for us as we seek to serve more children,” she says. 

With the two new spaces, the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena upped its staff and “completed a wild summer with 475 kids for the summer program.” The pools were open, and 50 kids traveled to the mountains for sleepaway camp. 

“On all fronts we’re thriving,” she says. “We’re doing what we’ve set out to do with our mission to reach kids.”

Also, a year ago, the club revamped its transportation program as well, raising money to invest in vans branded with its colors and name. Previously, the organization was paying more than $100,000 annually for bus service. 

“We have fun with a purpose,” Cavelier says. “Every single day that kids come to our programs at all four sites there’s a purpose, whether it’s Power Hour, homework help. They don’t just fiddle around with their homework. They get homework done. We have tutors. We take academic success very, very seriously. That’s a staple of what we do every single day with children and youth. Kids need a safe place to be in the afternoons and during the summers where they can have a sense of belonging. Safety is always our No. 1.” 

Back to the ’80s: Black Tie and Burgers

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, October 15

WHERE: Pasadena City Hall, 100 Garfield Avenue, Pasadena

COST: Tickets start at $200


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