A Carson City treasure
Autumn Cuellar’s mother faced a problem: she did not know what to do with her daughter in the time between Autumn was let out of school and when she left work.Autumn had been in the Latchkey program, but now she was too old.Her mother had heard of this other program, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, but she did not know what it was about. She went to a meeting and called her own mother, Autumn’s grandmother, Donna Yukish, to question the reality of the cost and the benefits.The program was real and she enrolled Autumn, Yukish said in a speech during the World’s Greatest Barbecue, the biggest and only fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, on Saturday. “We do it so we don’t have to hit up people again and again,” Chief Professional Officer Hal Hansen said. “We respect our donors. That’s why they keep coming back year after year.”And come back they do, at nearly a 90 percent rate, Hansen said about the $100 a head fundraiser. Mike Bennett, the principal of the Carson City office of Lumos and Associates, which purchased a table this year, has been coming for six years and Lumos and Associates has been buying a table for at least the last 10 years, he said.“(They’re) a huge benefit and we like to support them,” Bennett said.The club also raises money by asking donors directly. The club’s goal is to raise $200,000 from the event.“We made $200,000 last year,” Hansen said. “We’re helped by major sponsors.”The silent auction alone will hopefully raise $30,000 and its not-silent counterpart will double that amount, he said.“It only takes two people to have an auction,” he said.The Boys and Girls Club sees an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink soup of children.“We get a mix of kids from all walks of life. They learn and play together,” Hansen said. “You gotta let the kids be kids.”All of that money raised will be going toward the children’s program, more specifically, toward its operating budget.Molehills instead of mountainsAutumn has cerebral palsy, although she does not allow it to steer her life in the least her grandmother said.“She doesn’t let it define her,” Yukish said. “She says it affects her body but not her mind.”The club, along with the Carson City School District, has been instrumental in helping Autumn reach her full potential, Yukish said.“The school district works hard to bring her equal to other kids in the school. They’re very accepting and understanding,” she said.At the club, Autumn is not bullied, nor is she teased for her commitment to being an “A” student, Yukish said.“Autumn’s first step is to the homework room,” she said. “The staff take the time to be her friends. Their support, time and encouragement is so” profound.Autumn joined the Boys & Girls Club’s Glee Club two years ago and performed at the dinner with Glee Club members and their support for her singing and dancing.Yukish said the children, Autumn’s fellow students, were incredibly supportive of her granddaughter, she said“It’s a treasure for Carson City,” she said of the club.