A record level of Foundation For Youth program participation was celebrated Thursday during the organization’s annual meeting.

FFY recorded more than 14,000 registrations last year from young people served by center. That compares to 12,500 program registrations in 2015, agency executive director Chuck Kime said.

Such statistics were shared with about 130 adults and 150 young people who attended Foundation For Youth’s annual meeting at the agency’s facility, 405 Hope Ave. in Columbus.

“We’re proud of our growth,” Kime said. “Within the past few years, we’ve grown exponentially.”

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After the meeting, Kime passed part of the credit for the 12.5 percent increase in participation to an additional push by Boys and Girls Club Director Nathan Larrison in local schools to highlight offerings and programs.

“And once we can get them in the door, most often, they don’t want to leave,” Kime said.

Larrison said he markets FFY opportunities during open houses, family nights and school announcements.

“Our reach these days is becoming very wide,” Larrison said. “Once we see a little increase, word of mouth really seems to spread (and multiply the boost).”

FFY leaders also announced that a record number of volunteers served in 4,521 roles, with volunteers supporting multiple programs, such as the mentor-oriented Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Bartholomew County, character-building Girls On the Run program and at the nature-focused Columbus Youth Camp.

“This is about the kids,” Kime said when asked to explain the volunteer involvement, resulting in 32,023 hours of donated time with a monetary worth of $754,462. “People naturally want to help out kids.”

The nonprofit agency, founded in 1928 is averaging 179 children per weekday, compared to 130 per day two years ago, Kime said.

Nine-year-old Marley Sutton, named Camper of the Year partly for her unbridled zeal for youth camp and the great outdoors, has been attending foundation programs for three years.

“You get to do a lot of cool stuff here,” Marley said.

She has loved camp for everything from overnight cabin stays to making simple bracelets.

“And we get to stay up late around the campfire, eat s’mores and tell scary stories,” Marley said.

She did all this while learning elements of friendship, teamwork and personal growth.

The foundation also highlighted its outreach to reach economically disadvantaged families. It provided $250,000 in sliding-scale discounts last year and an added $50,000 in outright scholarships — nearly tripling the previous high for that.

But Kime said the agency wants to reach more young people, and especially the disadvantaged, with part of its $1.7 million budget. That includes strong support from the business, corporate and individual donor community plus about 25 percent of its funds from United Way of Bartholomew County.

“We want to identify who and where these (disadvantaged) kids are,” Kime said.

Both individual and corporate donations to FFY have tripled since 2014, according to the annual report.

FFY by the numbers in 2016

1,165: Individual donor gifts

179: Average number of youngsters attending programs each day

89: Years in existence

87: Corporate gifts

FFY awards

Foundation for Youth annual awards

  • It Takes a Village: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
  • Friend of Camp: Sawyer Shoaf
  • Coach of the Year: Mike Compton
  • Volunteer of the Year: Claudia Jackson
  • Safe Place Site of the Year: Columbus Fire Department and Capt. Mike Wilson
  • Employee of the Year: Andy Young
  • Hollenbeck Boy of the Year: Hunter Price
  • Hollenbeck Girl of the Year: Brooklyn McKorkle
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters Match of the Year: Amanda Bryant and Avery Kleinert
  • Camper of the Year: Marley Sutton
  • Carlin Lucas Girl of the Year: Madison Moore
  • Carlin Lucas Boy of the Year: Hunter Larrison
  • Youth of the Year: Caleb Cureton

Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser awards

  • Top fundraiser: Mike Mattern
  • No. 2 fundraiser Bob Langdon
  • No. 3 fundraiser Ryan Day
  • Banker’s Bowl: Tanya Hawkins (Old National Bank)
  • Cornerstone Challenge: Ashley Haag (Faurecia)
  • BCSC Top fundraising school: Jeff Backmeyer (Southside Elementary)
  • Cummins Challenge: Mike Mattern

FFY board matters

At Thursday’s annual meeting, Foundation For Youth leaders:

  • Congratulated retiring board members Tracy Embree and Laura Hack.
  • Elected its new officers: Mary Stroh, president; Brad Manns, vice president; Don Abel, treasurer; and Angela Force, secretary.
  • Welcomed new board members: Beth Jones, Jeff Jones, Ben McDaniel and Chad Phillips.

About Foundation For Youth

Where: 405 Hope Ave. in Columbus.

Mission: To inspire and enable youth with a variety of after-school and other programs from sports to science meant to build character, enhance learning and provide other tools for success in life.

Hours: Vary from day to day.

Since: 1928

Information: foundationforyouth.org or 812-348-4558

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.