Pass Christian celebrates new Boys & Girls Club with GMA viewers

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - The Boys and Girls Club Dance Team and Drum Line showed off their moves under the glow of the national spotlight.  As Good Morning America cameras rolled Thursday morning, hundreds of people showed up before dawn to watch anchor Robin Roberts.

Robin returned to Pass Christian to celebrate a special day in her hometown.  Surrounded by her mom, the governor, and other dignitaries, Robin helped cut the ribbon to dedicate the new Pass Christian Boys and Girls Club - Qatar Center.

Then, anxious people moved inside for a tour of the impressive $5.7 million building. The facility features a game room, computer lab, four learning centers, an upstairs area just for teens, and a commercial kitchen to teach kids how to cook.

The Pass High Pirates were the first to try-out the new gym.  It was named in honor of Robin's parents, who spearheaded the drive to open a Boys and Girls Club in the Pass in 1999.

"My children were all so involved in sports," said Lucimarian Roberts.  "The gym just seems to be the place where we should be.  So it's been wonderful."

The children here have waited nearly four years for the building, after the original club was destroyed by Katrina. They have been using the Delisle school campus ever since.

"Words really cannot describe the excitement and the relief to think that we're finally here," said Sam Burke, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast.  "And it's really gotten to a point that we realize that this isn't the end, this is simply the beginning."

Club leaders expressed their deepest gratitude to the country of Qatar, which donated five million to build the 28,000 square foot facility.

"We hope the children of Pass Christian, MS, will always remember that they have a friend in Qatar," said Hamad Al-Dosari, a Qatar Diplomat.

"We are now connected to the people of Qatar with one heart beat," said Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott.  "We will thank you.  This will go on forever."

More exciting news came out of the dedication ceremony.  The co-chairman of the campaign to raise $15 million to rebuild the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast announced a major donation.

"Our latest contribution comes from Hancock Bank and the late Leo Seal.  It's a combined gift of $350,000," said Anthony Topazi.  "That brings the total amount of money committed to $13.2 million.  We are at 90 percent of our campaign goal, and at that level, we can begin construction on the other three facilities."

Those three sites are at Forest Heights in Gulfport, North Bay in D'Iberville, and the Valencia C. Jones School property in Bay St. Louis. Construction could begin in about two months.

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