NEWARK, NJ – Country singer Kellie Pickler may have been the headliner, but the members of the Boys & Girls Clubs were the real stars of last night’s 10th Annual Concert for Kids, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Wednesday night.
Pickler, known for her country hits and for making it to the finals on the fifth season of “American Idol,” performed for a little more than an hour in a show that raised money for the Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the state, many of which had club members in attendance.
New Jersey-born Joe Piscopo was the emcee for the evening, which also included a performance by Boys and Girls Club members, including Alycia Prisco of the Lodi chapter, who sang “I Will Always Love You,” and Hudson County member David Brown, who is the 2012 New Jersey Youth of the Year. The Young Fire Step Team of the Perth Amboy Club also performed. All of the performances featured comments from the youth about the way the Boys & Girls Clubs has impacted their lives.
“The Boys & Girls Club has given me a sense of purpose and self-awareness,” said Brown, now a student at Rider University who is planning to go on to law school. “Without them, my life would have taken a turn in the wrong direction.” He said the staff of his chapter believed in him before he believed in himself.
He made a plea for the Hudson County chapter, located in Hoboken and nearly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
Piscopo talked attendees through how to pledge using text messaging, while a screen behind him showed the total climbing upward. Bill Johnson, market executive for Capital One Bank, who also was the evening’s Humanitarian Honoree, pledged to match the first $500 donation, which came through shortly after that.
Event Chair Leo McGuire, retired Bergen County sheriff, thanked everyone for attending the event and supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs, who count a number of famous names among its alumni.
“The famous are the ones in our club now,” McGuire said. “Our future is brighter because of these children, their children, our children, and your support.”
Piscopo told the crowd that he and some of the event organizers had visited the Boys & Girls Club in Newark earlier in the day and some of the kids had sung for Pickler.
The 26-year-old singer’s rapport with the kids was evident during the show, as she interacted with them between songs. As she finished her song “I Wonder,” which she penned about her mother, who has been largely absent from Pickler’s life, she saw one of the girls in the front row crying. Pickler came to the edge of the stage, knelt down, and opened her arms to the girl.
She ended the concert with her signature hit, “Red High Heels.”
The Concert for Kids is the signature fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs throughout New Jersey. The event last year raised more than $500,000 for the 23 clubs statewide.
There are 23 local Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the state of New Jersey serving more than 85,000 children from ages as young as six years old to 18. Over the years the clubs have seen themselves grow, based on the fact they have kept membership costs low, so no child would ever be turned away due to the cost.
For more than 150 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have provided programs a safe place, adult mentors and life enhancing programs to young people in need. Clubs nationwide are focusing especially on education and job training for teens in effort to address critical issues such as high school drop out and delinquency and gang participation and substance abuse. Clubs also provide programs in health and fitness, character and leadership, the arts, and sports and recreation.