Thanks to a grant, future NBA player Shaun Willis, 13, will still have a place to practice basketball this summer.

Thanks to a grant, future NBA player Shaun Willis, 13, will still have a place to practice basketball this summer.

The board of directors of Avedis Foundation announced a grant of $55,000 at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Shawnee’s annual dinner.

Michelle Briggs, President and CEO of Avedis Foundation, and Paula Waters, program director, were to go out and look at different organizations to find someone in need of a grant.

“We saw the needs right away,” Briggs said, referring to The Boys & Girls Club.

The Boys & Girls Club contacted them about their needs for updated air conditioning for their gymnasium.

“Just the air conditioning alone…if we didn’t come up with 30 grand before this summer, we would have to shut the doors,” said Lieutenant Phillip Canning.

Each week, Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Shawnee serves between 58 and100 students. Briggs said she and the board have been very impressed with the increase in enrollment during the two years Julio Sanchez has been director.

Further additions funded by the grant will include essential educational tools, such as a computer lab and SMART Board, as well as the remodeling of the facility’s teen lounge and game room.

“They just asked for an air conditioner but now the grant is helping also remodel,” Briggs said.

Avedis Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation that was established in June 2012 from the sale of Unity Health Center to St. Anthony Hospital. It is one of Oklahoma’s larger foundations, with assets in excess of $100 million, established to invest in the county through grants that support projects and benefit nonprofit organizations within the foundation’s granting area.

The name “Avedis” means “one who brings glad tidings,” or “the bearer of good news,” which is exactly how Sanchez felt about it when hearing the grant was going to be given to The Boys & Girls Club.

“First Julio cried, then I cried, then tears were just pouring followed by lots of hugs,” Briggs said.

“I couldn’t thank them enough,” said Sanchez.

The Boys & Girls Club provides an after-school program, a summer and school break program, no-charge healthy snacks and dinners, mentoring and educational support, community service and field trip activities, as well as healthy lifestyle and exercise, among many other organized programs.

“They are so dedicated and committed to the children but the facilities need to be upgraded,” Briggs said.

Children, ages 5-17, are enrolled at the club. Shaun said his favorite part about going to the Boys & Girls Club is getting to play in the gym because he wants to be a NBA player when he grows up.

“Without this grant, there would be kids not able to be here because of the heat conditions,” Sanchez said.

Shaun said he would be a little upset if he weren’t able to play in the gym so he’s glad the money will provide air conditioning. He’s also excited about the remodeling of the teen lounge.

“The gym and the teen lounge are my favorite part,” he said.

Ebyni Dixon, 7, said her favorite thing to do at The Boys & Girls Club is play fun games.

“My favorite game is dodge ball but I’m afraid to throw the ball,” she said.

Ebyni said when she grows up she wants to be a nurse but knows she’ll have to go to college for a long time to do that. She said she’s learning a lot at The Boys & Girls Club.

Sanchez said his goal for all the students is that they graduate high school and have a plan for the future. He, along with his staff, has set up a wall for the students to look at with each of their pictures and their graduating years.

“My staff is wonderful,” Sanchez said.

Shauna Jones, 9, said she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up because she really likes animals. She said she has met a lot of friends at The Boys & Girls Club and even though she might be moving schools, she plans to come back during the breaks to spend time with everyone.

“I don’t have a favorite thing because I like it all,” she said.

Avedis’s mission statement is ‘improving the health, wellness and quality of life for the people of Pottawatomie County and its surrounding communities.’

“I cannot wait to see Shawnee in 10 to15 years and see the impact of Avedis. We’re just one of many,” Canning said.

Avedis Foundation can also be recognized by its signature statement, “We’re here for good.”

“We’re not done, we’re just beginning,” Briggs said.