Mourning An Unspeakable Tragedy
Helping Young People Through Unsettling Times

December 14, 2012 -- Our nation is shocked and saddened today as we learn about the horrific killing of young children and teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It seems that senseless tragedies that end innocent lives are happening more and more often, in various settings. Yet it is hard to imagine a more tragic circumstance than the loss of young students and their teachers, such as we have witnessed this morning. It breaks the heart of everyone who cares about kids, and reminds us as few other things can that our children are precious, and that we must do everything in our power to protect them.

While we do not have any indication at this time that any of our Clubs in Connecticut have been affected, we did learn that the principal of the school, who was among those adults murdered, was the cousin of Joe Andreana, who just retired as director of the CT State Alliance, and is a longtime board member of the BGCs of Lower Naugatuck Valley. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joe and his family at this most difficult time.

While we can never fully understand how a human being is capable of such acts, we must help our young people cope with the tragedies that are part of life, no matter how random or senseless. Often we as adults are at a loss for words ourselves, yet we must help our children process these events, put them in the proper context, and value the things that give our lives purpose and meaning.

At the same time, on a very practical level, we must ask ourselves what we can do, as individuals, as parents and guardians, and as Boys & Girls Club professionals, to protect ourselves -- especially our children -- in an uncertain and risk-filled world.

Fortunately, we have experts at Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and throughout our Movement, who can offer helpful guidance at times like these. I have asked Judith J. Pickens, Senior Vice President of Program and Youth Development Services (PYDS), and Linda Wiltse, Vice President of PYDS, to share with Club professionals some of their perspective on how to offer comfort and counsel to young people in the aftermath of horrific events that they see reported and discussed prominently in the media.

Also, Les Nichols, our V.P. for Child and Club Safety, has guidelines on keeping our Clubhouses safe. Of course, this is an everyday priority, but we are reminded to redouble our efforts to be attentive, vigilant and thorough, and do all we can to protect our children through the enactment of proper policies and preventive measures.

In the links below, we have provided a few outside resources for parents and caregivers trying to reassure kids and teens during these unsettling times. We have also provided Boys & Girls Club staff with additional facility-based resources. Please take a moment to read these today.

At times like this, we become mindful of the profound importance of our mission. Thanks to all of the dedicated Boys & Girls Club staff members for all they do for our children, and for working so hard to give them the hope and opportunity to realize a great future.

Regards,

Jim Clark

Jim Clark
President & CEO
Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Resources:

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Boys & Girls Clubs annually serve nearly 4 million youth through Club membership and community outreach.