EAST AURORA, NY — “Organized chaos” is how Gary Schutrum describes his East Aurora Boys & Girls Club.
“The energy they come here with is very rewarding,” said Schutrum, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora.
Schutrum has played a role in the lives of tens of thousands of children during his 36 years as the club’s chief executive. It is a place where he himself grew up. Schutrum, a 1978 graduate of East Aurora High School, said he played basketball there after school as a child and it was his home away from home.
“I wanted to be here every day if possible, just to go to the gym.”
And thanks to his vision, it’s much more than just a gym for the average 380 kids who go there every day after school or in the evenings during teen nights. There is a computer learning lab, a junior counselor work program, arts and crafts, a game room, music classes, a teen room, a quiet space for mental health counseling, cooking classes, leadership programs and much more.
“If we’re able to develop relationships with them and recruit them for more impactful programming, if we can teach them how to kill without them knowing, that’s what they’ll use for the rest of their lives,” he said. .
Schutrum became director of the club in 1987 and helped it grow to now have a membership base of 1,250 children, of which 1,400 non-member children participate in activities sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club. There is also the successful summer program called Camp Ska. -No-Ka-San.
One of Schutrum’s greatest achievements was helping raise money to build the new club in 1996.
“And as a result of the facility growth, our membership grew by a third, our budget grew by a third, and our facilities grew by a third. So that growth at that time was exciting, rewarding, great for the kids and great for the community. ,” he said.
Unit director Neil Parrish says he’s lucky to work for someone as selfless as Schutrum. The club has one of the lowest turnover rates in the country, which speaks to Schutrum’s leadership.
“He has transformed this place to what it is today,” Parrish said. “His passion for the youth of East Aurora and his passion for the Boys and Girls Club movement is unmatched anywhere else. And his passion for this town, this city where he grew up as well. He just wants to give back and keep it going.”
Schutrum also gives back through coaching. He has coached the East Aurora men’s and women’s basketball teams for more than 25 years, and has also coached soccer and tennis, and is now the golf coach at his alma mater.
“There’s nothing more satisfying for me as a coach than seeing a player do something he doesn’t even know he’s capable of doing. But you’ve preached it, you’ve sold it, you’ve taught it, you’ve taught it.” “I’ve made them believe. And now, here they come for you,” he said.
The impact he’s had is immeasurable, and luckily for the kids of East Aurora, he has no plans to slow down.
“No one is going to get rich here, but the personal reward that comes with that is much greater,” he said.
Schutrum has been married to his wife Christina for more than 40 years and they have daughters Jessica, Lindsay and Brooke.
Schurtrum’s accolades include the Frank Martin Section VI Coach and Person of the Year Award in 2022, Citizen of the Month by Legislator Joe Lorigo in November 2018, and New York State High School Women’s College Coach of the Year in 2015. It was included in the East. Aurora Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame in 2017 and she is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of East Aurora and has served as president and secretary.
To nominate someone to appear in the “Selfless Among Us” series, email Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com.
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