Aaron Haack demonstrates a jump shot to one of his buddies on the court, a friend who is half his height and one third his age.

"Your left is your guide hand," he says. "It's your right that gives your shot power. ... Nice! Good work!"

Haack, who has been part of the Boys & Girls Club scene for five years, knows the program well.

"I worked all four years throughout college — and three summers also — as a gym supervisor, with this being my first year as recreation director," he says.

He says working for the now-century-old organization seems almost as if it were inevitable.

"Working with children really just picked me," he says. "For some reason, young children are drawn to me, and I love to laugh and goof around, so I guess naturally it's a good fit."

After only a short time at the club, the 2005 SPEA graduate says, he found how much kids need positive role models as they are faced with bigger challenges everyday.

"In my opinion most school systems, parents, etc. are not helping the situation by not preparing young people for the world," he says. "As I really feel every child can be reached, it's just a matter of how much a person wants to give in time and effort."

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The Boys & Girls Club's mission statement says it "works to foster the physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth of boys and girls ages six to eighteen with a special concern for those most in need of service."

The Club, officially organized in Connecticut in 1906, strives "to instill a sense of belonging, competence, usefulness and power so members feel they are part of something worthwhile."

Suzanne Kern's son, Nathan, is now a freshman. Nathan's years at the Club helped him transition from a small school to a large one, says him mom.

"The Club is a really good resource, great for an only child," says Kern. "It gave him a place to 'let down' between school and home."

Especially for the cost, he says. "Compared to others, the Club is more convenient, open later, and would be especially great for single parents."

Nathan's favorite parts of the Club were the computer lab and gym, and he also liked the summer programs.

"The range of kids — ages, backgrounds - gives them a chance to deal with the real world," Kern continues. "There's not too much structure, and you learn you are not going to get along with everyone. That is good."

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Haack first became involved through his mother, as she volunteered when he was a child at a club in Fort Wayne.

"I would just tag along and help out when I could," he says. "Then when I came to college I knew I needed a job to help support myself here, so I went to the work/study jobs fair and found a position.'

Haack says his fondest times are helping kids find different ways to look at things, "sometimes through someone else's eyes, maybe someone they had picked on or made fun of."

Putting a smile on a kid's face is also one of Haack's greatest rewards, knowing that maybe for a short time at least they don't have to worry about their home life, grades, or what people will think of them.

"Just having them be kids for a while, that's one of the greatest feelings in life," he says.

The public affairs/management grad works with community members to help find essential items the youths need.

"Steve Smith of Smith's Sport 'n Shoe donated a couple pairs of shoes to kids who had worn holes through theirs and the family couldn't afford to buy new ones," he says. "That is a wonderful feeling."

He says surprises come every day, a child with a new problem, funding, parents, etc, which has a lot to do with how he handles situations and then learn from them.

"Learning from my mistakes and accomplishments makes it easier to deal with surprises," he says.

Mistakes and surprises are of no concern to those whose lives Haack touches.

"He's great!" seven-year-old Club member Sarah says of Haack. "He's fun and awesome — and he's my friend!"

Melissa McReynolds can be reached at melissa@galfriday.biz.