Less than a year ago, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Spanos family teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Los Angeles (BGCMLA) to announce a multi-year partnership by providing a $400,000 capital investment. The funding was to improve and enhance existing athletic fields, and establish new teen centers at the BGCMLA Watts/Willowbrook and Challengers Clubhouses.
Well, on Wednesday, the team saw what a difference the donation made as they were on site at the Watts/Willowbrook Clubhouse to officially open the facility's new athletic field and teen center. Joining the team in upgrading the teen center is Chargers' corporate partner, Bob’s Discount Furniture, who outfitted the facility with new furniture.
"It's pretty neat," mentioned Chargers Controlling Owner and Chairman of the Board, Dean Spanos. "It was only nine months ago. So to come out here and see the field done now…and the teen center upstairs which has been completely renovated, it's neat…. It's really about the kids; it's an investment in the kids. It gives them an opportunity to learn and to grow in a safe haven. They're the future. Not only the future for themselves in terms of what they want to do, but for their communities (as well)."
"It's an amazing opportunity to see an idea come to fruition," Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles CEO Calvin Lyons said. "When you see kids who have also seen these spaces transformed into what they are today (it's great). And then, to see the Chargers come out, kick it off and see it finished? It's an amazing feeling. Dean, the family and the team have been phenomenal. Not just with sports and athletics, but they understand the brain potential of kids (being) team members in the community and how we can harvest that talent.... I'm without words for the amount of support they've given."
Spanos and Lyons were joined by Travis Benjamin and Justin Jones at the Watts/Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club to unveil the new amenities. Benjamin and Jones even had some fun on the new field, holding drills for the children in attendance.
"The world is already hard enough as it is, so when you come to a Boys and Girls Club, it's supposed to be a place where you can release energy, learn and have fun in an environment where people don't judge you with people just like you," Jones stated. "I went to the Boys and Girls Club in Metro Atlanta. So without that, who knows where I would be. I know how important this is."
"You appreciate it knowing I was once in these guys' shoes," Benjamin reflected. "(It's great) growing up and knowing that somebody actually cares about these kids and cares about the community. I greatly appreciate it and I'm happy to be here."
A multi-year effort, the Chargers' investment in BGCMLA is being applied in two phases – phase one includes facility refurbishment and repair while phase two is helping bolster the club's educational enrichment programming.
With phase one now complete at Watts/Willowbrook, Lyons is excited for what's to come in phase two. As he knows, the Chargers and Spanos family have made a tangible impact in the city's community since arriving in Los Angeles, and he can't wait for them to continue making an impact with the BGCMLA.
"Some people look at sports teams ant they think brawn and athleticism, but they also need to get through college," Lyons said. "They need to be prepared for other avenues in life. I like how the Chargers are not only supporting their healthy lifestyles, but one of their other priority areas is academic success. A lot of the jobs are in the STEAM and STEM fields. So to know they're supporting the STEAM centers is another exciting opportunity to get kids ready."
Boys and Girls Club Watts/Willowbrook received a $400,000 donation from the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 to help improve and enhance existing athletic fields and establish new teen centers.