A safe space. That's what the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley give to more than 43,000 kids each year. But along with keeping kids out of harm's way after school lets out, the Boys & Girls Clubs enrich children's lives though their programs. Kids get creative in arts classes, learn social interaction and fitness skills in sports programs, and prepare for the future with technology courses that ensure they won't buy stock in companies that only produce floppy discs.
But the Boys & Girls Clubs impact kids beyond afterschool care. In addition to the East Valley clubs having the first Arizona club to serve a Native American community, the clubs' Ladmo branch has Mona Dixon, who was named National Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2010.
Her path of success, encouraged by the Boys & Girls Clubs, led her from a girl homeless and worried about her family's survival to a young woman with a full ride to college and named one of the Top 28 Most Influential Black Women in America by Essence magazine.
The Festival of Horses parades rare breeds alongside hitch-pulling draft steeds to celebrate equine diversity, entertainment, and labor. The graceful gaits of breeds such as frisians, spanish barb mustangs, and arizona appaloosas glide across the stallion showcase’s arena, the walls of which are made from wooden remnants of the Trojan Horse tied together with Mister Ed film reels. Rows of commercial booths promote and sell their wares on the trade-show floor, where horse-lovers haggle over trailers, tack, and feed. Trot from ring to ring, absorbing the sights and sounds of horse-human demonstrations from groups such as the Golden West Cowgirls and horse soccer, a contest of skill that has confused jersey manufacturers everywhere.
AZ Grip-N-Rip Batting Cages provides a space for aspiring athletes to hone all the basics of their game. In fully-enclosed batting cages, hitters train both eyes and muscles to deal with consistent-speed pitches as the machines at the other end of the cage spit out either baseballs or softballs. Meanwhile, at soft toss stations or regulation-sized clay mounds, pitchers practice the subtle handholds that produce spin or the full body power behind a fastball. Nine coaches—many with Major League experience playing for teams like the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago White Sox, and the New York Mets—provide pointers and training regimens that really help students improve their game, running one-on-one lessons, group classes, and even baseball camps, where students learn important skills, like how to build a fire by rubbing two bats together.
For the Banzai Physical Challenge, young warriors must face a dastardly foe: mud. Throughout a two-mile course, kids must brave the mess as they scale a hay mountain, take on a technically engineered ¼ pipe, rope swing, and mud crawl. Youngsters ages 7–17 can opt to tackle the muddy obstacle course on their own, with an adult, or with an altruistic pig that can carry them to the end.
After rinsing off at the cleanup area, participants can explore Banzai's other kid-friendly attractions, including tug-of-war, inflatable obstacle courses, and bounce houses. Warriors can unwind with chair massages, adorn their arms with glitter tattoos, groove to tunes spun by live DJs, or replenish themselves with food and drink. There's even a beer garden for the adults.
A person steps onto the range and raises a pistol, aligning the sight not on a paper target, but on miniature pumpkins. To keep things fresh, the staff at Ted's Shooting Range likes giving both members and the general public a bit of novelty every now and then by furnishing range targets that range from bowling pins to balloons. Ted's NRA-certified instructors also train students during classes, such as their Basic Pistol and Home Defense courses.