The word “family” was everywhere March 7 at the Antlers Hotel.

For many, it was parents, guardians and grandparents there with them, and for all of them family has come to also mean the Boys and Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region and its mentors, instructors, coaches and staff.

The Great Futures Gala was a celebration of the 132-year-old club, started on land donated by city founder Gen. William J. Palmer. Today there are programs across the region serving over 1,000 youngsters. The four Kids Clubs are before-and after-school child care. The two Boys and Girls Clubs are after-school youth development programs at E.A. Tutt Club, 1455 S. Chelton Road, and El Pomar Club, 805 Praderia Ave. (

The mission for this oldest Boys and Girls Club west of the Mississippi: “To empower every Club member, through safe and impactful experiences, to graduate high school with a plan for college or career, contribute to their community and live a healthy life.”

The gala was a time to honor outstanding young people, annual winners of Youth of the Year. For 2020, it was Marissa Mitchell, a club participant since fifth grade who said the mentors were “always there, who taught me that believing in myself is the most important thing I could do.” A talented musician with the Colorado Springs Conservatory, she will major in music education at University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in August. Her favorite singers: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, for whom she named her trumpets.

Marissa was joined on stage by previous Youth of the Year honorees Gracelline Hunt, 2013, a single mother and UCCS student; Rebecca Starnes, 2019, a PPCC student describing herself “like I-25, always under construction; and Ashley O’Donnell, 2014, who graduated from UCCS “debt free,” worked with Joint Initiatives for Youth & Families as a coach and is a motivational speaker.

Club President/CEO James Sullivan was thanked throughout the evening and following the family theme was joined by son James “Sulli” Sullivan, a Formula SAE racing team member.

Sullivan introduced one of the family units that makes the club successful, Club Mom Becky Mitchell, mother of honoree Marissa. Their family has been part of the club for seven years because, says Club Mom, “kids need a positive place to be.”

One of the funniest moments of the evening was the Veterans’ Liquor donation of a 12-year-old Buffalo Trace Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Up and up the bids went, finally stopping at $6,000 amid cheers and laughter.

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