65 Years for the Kids    

A History of Tucson’s Best Working Together

By Jay Gonzales

In the last 65 years, there’s no telling how many thousands of kids have stories to tell about the impact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson have had on their lives.

The stories can be compelling.

Jon Volpe was a local kid from a broken home who sought guidance and security from the Boys & Girls Clubs. He was on his own after school with a loving but single mom who worked nights “to make ends meet.” He saw his older brother go to prison several times. He knew the same path was there for him to follow. Instead, he took another.

To this day, he credits his success as a college and professional athlete, as a graduate of Stanford University, and as a prominent Tucson businessman to the opportunities the clubs gave him as a youth. Volpe is currently owner and chair of the board of NOVA Home Loans, one of the leading mortgage, investment and insurance companies in the country.

“I owe a lot to the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Volpe said. “I don’t think I would be where I’m at today if they weren’t there for me after school to give me the support and guidance and mentorship that I needed.”

Likewise, University of Arizona basketball hero Sean Elliott was a “club kid” who spent his time after school and in the summer with his two brothers at the Steve Daru Clubhouse at 1375 N. El Rio Dr., next to the El Rio Golf Course.

“My mom took all three of us there because she and my dad worked all the time,” Elliott said, saying he spent “countless hours” at the club. “They needed to make sure that we had a place we could go where it was safe, and where we weren’t out in the streets and getting in trouble.

“The biggest thing is it just kept us       active. I loved all the activities there.           I loved to build models and I loved to play chess. I believe I learned how to play chess at the Boys & Girls Club, and I played a lot of checkers.”

Who’s Who of Supporters

Volpe, Elliott and thousands of other local kids have been the beneficiaries of an organization that, for decades, has attracted support from a veritable who’s who of the Tucson business and philanthropic community.

Longtime Tucson auto dealer Jim Click became a supporter when his friends and business partners convinced him to get involved. In the early 1980s, Click, through his uncle, Holmes Tuttle, linked up with the organization’s western region manager who told him the Tucson clubs were having some financial trouble. Click said he jumped right in, gave the local clubs a $50,000 loan through a local bank he owned with some partners, and started fundraising.

Click’s influence was such that President Ronald Reagan came to Tucson to dedicate the club named after Holmes Tuttle at 2585 E. 36th St.

“The first fundraiser I got involved in, we gave away a (Ford) Thunderbird,” Click recalled. He helped arrange an event at the Old Spaghetti Company where the drawing was held. Funds raised that night paid back the loan with some leftover for the clubs. Click said the success of that event led to more support from the community.

“We met at the Skyline Country Club and one of the board members spoke to us about the importance of the Boys & Girls Clubs and how they changed her life and gave her a place to go after school,” Click said. “That group all joined the board and we agreed we would do everything we could to put the Boys & Girls Clubs back on sound financial footing.”

For the kids

Over the years, the list of supporters with long resumes in business and philanthropy in Tucson has grown to include Laurie Wetterschneider, Mark Irvin, Humberto Lopez, Todd Bisbocci, the Alan and Jan Levin Family, who were the 2023 Click for Kids Award honorees, and so many others who continue their support as board members, advisors and donors. 

Their expertise in their own businesses and careers has been the catalyst for the many unique events and fundraisers supporting the organization through the years. Elliott, who now lives in San Antonio, Tex., supported the clubs for several years by putting his name on the annual Steak & Burger Dinner which is the annual awards event. Click has been a master auctioneer at events over the years in which he doesn’t take no for an answer.

The late and legendary Lute Olson became a supporter of the clubs when he arrived in Tucson in 1983 to coach the University of Arizona basketball team. His name, with his wife Kelly’s, helms the Party with a Purpose, an annual, invitation-only fundraiser held in November.

Lopez, a prominent developer and philanthropist, said attending Boys & Girls Clubs breakfasts where Olson, Click and other prominent Tucsonans were showing their support is how he got involved and has stayed so for 40 years.

“Jim Click was always there, and he was always very good at getting you involved and making sure you’ve made a sizable contribution,” Lopez said of those breakfasts in the 1980s.

Wetterschneider and Irvin joined the cause about the same time in 1990, coming from different directions with the same objective, to help kids who need help, mentoring and role models. Both remain active with the organization.

Wetterschneider arrived in Tucson as a teenager, graduated from UArizona and ultimately dove into a career in radio and television. That led her to making community work a lifelong passion.

“I’m probably unusual in that I absolutely love asking for money,” Wetterschneider said. “For me, after having spent my career selling radio advertising, having the opportunity to do something on behalf of children in our community was just the most wonderful satisfying feeling to watch generations of Tucson’s youth grow up and thrive thanks to Boys & Girls Clubs.”

Wetterschneider has been on the board of directors since 1990. When she was introduced to the Boys & Girls Clubs she said didn’t know much more than they helped kids.

“I knew they served a lot of children. I thought of it as a sports facility,” she said. “I didn’t realize the educational component that goes with it that is very strong.”

Clubs within the Clubs

Similarly, Irvin, a commercial real estate broker, was attracted to the clubs more than 30 years ago by the idea of helping kids. Irvin has been one of the drivers of downtown revitalization as a member of the Rio Nuevo board of directors.

He arrived in Tucson in 1986 and took some time to establish his business before diving into community work. When it came time to pick a cause, Boys & Girls Clubs was an easy choice, he said.

One of Irvin’s many ideas to help the clubs has been to develop incentive programs for fundraising, such as the Five Figure Club for board members who raise more than $10,000 in a year. That led to the formation of a Six Figure Club. Irvin said he also helped develop the Rookie of the Year award on the board.

“What’s cool about it is it’s something that I think never was on the board’s radar screen,” Irvin said of the fundraising awards.

Lopez said of the clubs: “I love what they’re doing. They’ve been around for a long time and unless you’re doing something right, you’re not going to survive as many years as they’ve been around. It works and that’s why people like myself help out and contribute.”


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