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Newest Boys & Girls Clubs location opens near Lyman Hall Elementary
Scott Gilstrap, center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County physical education program coordinator, talks with architect Jacqueline V. Pepper about the HOPSports program, which is an interactive group exercise activity, while club member Kyah Canty, 8, looks on Wednesday during the grand opening of the Joseph F. Walters location of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Welcoming blue walls, colorful artwork, video games and study spaces greet children who come to Hall County’s newest Boys & Girls Clubs location, which opened Wednesday near Lyman Hall Elementary School.

Children will pour into the 10,400-square-foot facility Monday.

The Joseph F. Walters Boys & Girls Club features indoor spaces and an outdoor recreation complex, all to provide more services to kids in need of a safe place to go after school.

Joe Ethier, chief professional officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, said the majority of the children at the new club would come from Lyman Hall, which has a large Latino population.

“The population that we’re targeting, and the population that we’ll be serving here, will truly be those young people in Hall County that need us the most,” he said. “In this segment of the community, there’s really no services to young people. We’ll be bringing our program to a new group of kids.”

Ethier said the new building was the culmination of a seven-year fundraising campaign, which also helped build the teen center and renovate the existing Positive Place Club.

Jim Walters, president of Walters Management Co., was the lead donor in the campaign, and the club is named for his brother.

“There are kids who have no place to go when they get off of school,” Walters said. “This will be a good place to get them off the street, give them a good education while they’re here, teach them about self-worth, self-reliance, all those good qualities that you expect from kids.”

The club’s art room provides space for kids to get creative, and the education room is an area where students can go for help with homework.

The multipurpose room features Wii game consoles and a HOPSports mat, which allows children to exercise with video games.

“Technology is more available to kids than ever before,” said Scott Gilstrap, physical education program coordinator. “A lot of them that come from difficult scenarios in life still have access to technology, so we say rather than letting technology put them on the couch, we try to use technology to get them off the couch.”

For 8-year-old Boys & Girls Clubs participant Kyah Canty, playing at the club is the best part of the day.

“You get lots of exercise,” she said. “It helps your body get strong.”

Her sister, Cheyenne Canty, 10, said she enjoys just taking a breather after a long afternoon.

“When I have a hard day at school, I can just relax,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet new people.”

Several community groups, including the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County, the Medical Center Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, came together to make the project a reality.

“I think our community’s so blessed to have this new facility,” said Boys & Girls Clubs Board President Larry Baldwin. “In these difficult and uncertain times, our children are going to have a place to go to learn about hope for the future. They’re going to learn that they are our hope.”