SEBRING — The Sebring chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County were called to action by the city of Sebring and they were happy to answer the call. “We were asked by the city to do community outreach,” said Jessica Walker, assistant site director of the Sebring location. “To clean up some of the parks. So I said let’s go out and teach them community service.”
About the same time, Walker said the COPS ADAPT Unit had offered to come speak to the kids at the Boys & Girls Club. So she decided to put the two experiences together. “What better way to do it together than to come out together?”
“The Club” as they are known, are made up of students from middle school and high school from all three municipalities, Avon Park, Lake Placid and Sebring. They are all 11 years old or older. “The Club” are all members of the Sebring Boys & Girls Club.
This past Friday, Walker and her crew made their way to Firemen’s Field, across from Sebring High School. They were met by Highlands County Sheriff’s Deputies Eddie San Miguel, Paul Finnera, Benji Toney and Tevin Toney. The Deputies escorted the teens from the high school across the road to Firemen’s Field. Once inside the fence, Walker and her crew gathered on the bleachers for a heart to heart with Deputy San Miguel.
Deputy San Miguel talked to the teens about the importance of doing what’s right, being true to God and being true to themselves. “If you invest and take your time,” San Miguel said, “things can change for you.”
The deputy went on to tell the teens some personal moments from his own life and that through the hard work he put in as a teenager, he was able to overcome the bad things and make a good life for himself. “You guys matter,” San Miguel said.
He told the teens about recognizing the bad things in life and what had to change. He told them that he wanted to invest time into young people because they are the future. “If you need me, come see me, I won’t put you out. I don’t care what it is, I’ll help you.”
Deputy San Miguel ended his presentation with a story of the time he spent with the sheriff’s office in Florida’s panhandle after Hurricane Michael. “There’s a person behind the uniform,” San Miguel said. “Your heart and soul matter.”
After talking with the teens, the deputies offered to play some kickball with “The Crew” before the Deputies had to return to the streets. All 13 of the teens enjoyed their time with the deputies. All four deputies got in on the action, suited up in full gear. The teams took to the baseball field and played for nearly an hour.
After the game it was time to get started on the cleanup. The teens broke into two groups. They brought large garden-sized trash bags, rubber gloves and everyone did their part. The teens scoured the grounds in and around Firemen’s Field for any trash or debris. Once Walker was satisfied with the cleanup job, the teens began their trek home under the hot yellow sun and the promise of a cold drink.
“The Club” meets during the summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County in the Sebring facility. They are currently working on raising money for the teens to be able to go to Aquatica, a water park in Orlando, this summer. If you would like to help them reach their goal for this trip, they will be hosting a car wash from 4-5:15 p.m. this Tuesday, July 16 at the Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County, 111 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Sebring. A wash is $3 per car and donations of any amount are accepted.
The next community cleanup will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 19 at Rotary Park at the Sebring City Pier; 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, July 26 at Mary Toney Park in Washington Heights and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 1 at Veteran’s Beach. For more information, contact the Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County at 863-451-5757.