“My life has changed since I have been there,” said 16-year-old Smith-Mosley of when he joined the West Tampa Club eight years ago.
A junior and a member of the school’s Air Force JROTC, he said he found friendship, support, encouragement and a mentor at the club.
“I’m the only junior at my school who is a captain (in the JROTC program.),” he said. “I have 3.1 grade point average; I am trying to go to college. I can’t explain how much it (the club) has a meant to me.”
His family had to move to the Tampa Housing Authority’s North Boulevard Homes more than eight years ago because his mother lost her job just before a hurricane destroyed the East Tampa house where they lived, he said.
Through the club, he became connected to Carlos Jimenez, 33, a club coach who is in the military reserve and had served active duty. Jimenez became his mentor.
After lunch, Jimenez said he took a special interest in Smith-Mosley because the student “reminded me a lot of myself and what I had been through as a child. We both found our sanctuary at the Boys & Girls Clubs.”
The Feb. 19 luncheon at Steinbrenner Field was to recognize about 75 community leaders who helped the organization raise more than $600,000 at a December breakfast with 700 guests.
“We are much more than an after-school athletic program,” said Hal Steinbrenner, chairman of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay Foundation. He said the club stresses academics, leadership, community service and healthy lifestyles.
Ann Carney and Vic Holcomb co-chaired the December breakfast, where Lightning owners Jeff and Penny Vinik and the Lightning Foundation contributed a $100,000 match to the more than $500,000 donated by others. Carney said the Viniks have made the same challenge this year.
At the luncheon, U.S. Rep. Cathy Castor also announced a $50,000 donation from the estate of her father, Judge Don Castor, who died in 2013.
After lunch, Castor also met with Smith-Mosley and Jimenez offering help in getting information about the Air Force Academy and other academic opportunities.