Steak is the kids’ meal. That’s the tradition of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine annual Steak and Burger Dinner, where 100 of the nearly 3,000 club members dine with 150 supporters and donors of the five local clubs in southern Maine.

“Steak and Burger is one of the great traditions of the Boys & Girls Clubs,” said emcee Herb Ivy at the Aug. 15 dinner at the University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan Gymnasium Complex.

“Some of the kids who have been with us all summer get invited to this event to celebrate with the people who give money so we can do our programs,” said Mary Goodrich, director of the South Portland club. “The tradition is that the grownups get burgers, and the kids get steak, though we do let them pick.”

“This gets club members from different clubs together with face painting, games and, basically, an end-of-summer bash,” said staff member Melissa Cornish.

The evening included an announcement, naming the organization’s inaugural Promise Scholarship recipients, Gloria Bila and Emmanuel Mutshaila. Both emigrated from South Africa, act as leaders at the Portland club and work with children at their church, First Assembly of God on Cumberland Avenue in Portland. Both are attending the University of Southern Maine this fall.

“Back home, kids would just stay home, but here the Boys and Girls Clubs are places kids can go after school to learn and have fun,” said Bila, who was the 2017 Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine Youth of the Year and recently graduated from Portland High School. “I play games with kids all day. Any kind of game, I play it. Tonight, a bunch of the supporters are here and can meet the kids, and the kids can meet the people who pay for them to go on field trips.”

“I have kids, and it takes a lot of energy from a lot of different people to give kids all the opportunities they need and deserve,” said board member Heather Paquette, vice president of retail services at Hannaford, a major event sponsor and longtime supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“Most people know the clubs as a gym, but they’re so much more than that,” said board member Sharon Sudbay. “We help them with their homework, and we have music and arts programs and swimming.”

“It’s a great place to hang out and grow up together,” said Portland club member Theresa Galderio. “It’s a very safe environment, and there are lots of programs for young children.”

“We have an excellent club,” said South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen. “Thank God for it. When my daughter was growing up, she’d go there after school because I was working. They’re all coming from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and the younger you can teach kids to treat everybody equally, the better.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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