Nathan Hale (shown above), director of The Boys and Girls Club of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation since 2009, said the club’s 90,000-gallon indoor pool was recently renovated. The club, which has been active since 1998, continues to grow, Hale said. (Photo by Brian Sanders)

Potawatomi Boys and Girls Club continues to grow

When the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation started its chapter of the Boys and Girls Club back in 1998, the club was confined to a small room in the Potawatomi Activities Center, a 20-year-old building that, at the time it was built, housed the Potawatomi Tribal Council, the Elder Center, dining hall and other tribe-related activities.

“We had a hand-me-down pool table, a hand-me-down big-screen TV and about 15 kids,” said Nathan Hale, director of the The Boys and Girls Club of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation since 2009.

But as the club began to grow within the confines of the Activities Center, it eventually took over the building and was expanded with a new addition built in 2003 that included a weight room, a library and a 90,000-gallon indoor swimming pool.

The Boys and Girls Club also continues to grow in size, Hale said.

“We have 243 members currently, but we have a capacity for about 120 right now,” he said. “I never thought we’d outgrow this building, but we’re at that point where we had to take our game room and turn it into a classroom. We had to turn a TV room into a classroom. It’s just been nuts. So we’re just trying to figure out ways of adjusting to it.”

That growth, Hale said, has enabled the club to do a lot of things with elementary and high school-age children — both in the Potawatomi tribe and outside of it, as memberships in the club is not restricted to the tribe — that they might not get to experience otherwise.

“We’re doing things now that I never thought we’d be able to do,” he said. “It’s just weird to think about how we got from where we started to where we’re at now. And there are still some things that I can see on the horizon that I want to accomplish before it’s time for me to go.”

The mission of the club, according to the Potawatomi tribal Web site, is “to assist in the development and enhancement of the spiritual, mental, emotion and physical well-being of all young people in the surrounding area by providing a safe, positive place to learn and grow.”

During the school year, Hale said students from the Royal Valley school district are bused to the club after school lets out for the day and participate in structured activities that provide some educational value, although “we try not to make it like school.”

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