Friday could have been a day for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, particularly its Hartford chapter in the North End, to shine. But fighting for attention was an event at former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's house in Kent. Both events involved President George W. Bush.
The national organization, which offers a safe place for children to spend time outside of home and school, was founded as the Dashaway Club in Hartford 148 years ago by Elizabeth Hamersley, Louisa Bushnell, and Mary and Alice Goodwin to keep boys off the street. The organization opened its doors to girls in 1990.
President Bush visited the Northwest branch on Nahum Drive on Friday to honor the agency for contributing $25,000 to his malaria initiative, a program that provides netting to keep mosquitoes from biting African children at night. About 3,000 children die from malaria in Africa every day.
Later he went to Mr. Kissinger's to raise money for David Cappiello, a Republican running for the 5th District congressional seat held by Democrat Chris Murphy. Guests at the fundraiser could have a photograph taken with the president for $10,000 a pop.
Critics suggested that the Hartford stop was merely a way for the president to justify the second leg of his expensive trip.
It's too bad that Mr. Bush's other stop in Connecticut stole some of the limelight from the wonderful work done by Boys & Girls Clubs. The Northwest branch and 4,000 others help 4.8 million teens resist drugs and premarital sex, prepare youths for careers, and enhance their education through programs in arts, sports, fitness and recreation.
The founding of this remarkable organization is one of Hartford's best stories.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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