Great projects can’t happen without great people. And even great people need amazing leaders to move them into action. The Boys & Girls Club (BGC) can say with absolute certainty that this project would have never happened if it weren’t for the leadership and passion of Craig and Marilee Eerkes.
BGC has been talking about expanding since we opened our doors 22 years ago. Over the years many amazing opportunities were presented and our Clubs were able to utilize some great established buildings. However, the idea of actually building a Club felt like a dream that would never happen.
It was vision that was needed to push our local Clubs to the next level, and Marilee provided that with her kind heart and love for youth. She and Craig had witnessed some problems in Kennewick, particularly near their Sun Pacific Energy headquarters. Graffiti was a constant issue, crime rates were high, and children were leaving school with nowhere to go. Marilee didn’t see a problem as much as an opportunity. “These kids needed a Boys & Girls Club,” Marilee said. She knew the kids and community had great potential, they just needed some positive support and guidance.
It was clear that expanding to Kennewick was the right move for BGC, and there were many conversations, but little action. Someone needed to lead the project, but no one was stepping up. One day when the conversation came up yet again about who would lead, Marilee turned to Craig and said, “Why can’t we?”
Cue Craig Eerkes. Dream that would never happen? He’s never heard of it. When Craig takes something on, watch out! We are only too happy that he chose this new Clubhouse as his next project to accomplish. “Craig has a talent for bringing people together with a shared vision,” states Marilee.
And just like that, pieces started to fall into place and the idea of building a Clubhouse was no longer a dream, it was going to happen. Not only was it happening, Craig was telling us it would happen in ways that made us look at him like he was crazy. “Did you just say raise $4.3 milllion in 93 days?!” Yes, he did. No apologies.
Craig and Marilee were so confident that they also made the first gift to the GREAT FUTURES TRI-CITIES! campaign. An incredibly sacrificial donation of $1 million that set the tone for the entire campaign.
But that’s what great leaders do. They lead by example. They challenge you to do things that you never thought were possible and then celebrate you for being part of something amazing. Craig and Marilee believed in our Clubs, our volunteers and our community.
“This community has supported our business and helped it grow. It supported us when we lost [our daughter] Laura. Our business’ growth has given us the ability to support the kids in our community that need help in reaching their goals. And the support our family received helped us move forward at a difficult time. It was time to give back and help others move forward. It is rewarding to know we might make a difference in a child’s life,” says Marilee.
Craig and Marilee, you’ve done more than that. You have made dreams come true.