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Boys & Girls Club of Dane County honored with innovation award, breakfast with Denzel Washington


The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) today was honored by the Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) with the National Advocacy Innovation Award at the BGCA’s annual conference in Chicago.

BGCDC CEO Michael Johnson said the award recognizes the club’s work on the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center, which will be located in Fitchburg and provide job training and workforce development work in partnership with the Madison Area Builders Association. Johnson said the award also recognizes the Johnsons’ and the club’s advocacy to place a statue of Vel Phillips at the State Capitol, making her the first Black woman to be depicted there.

Johnson was especially excited that the honor included breakfast this morning with a former Boys and Girls Club member and current BGCA national spokesman Denzel Washington.

“He is somebody I have admired for a long time, and I’m not quite sure what I’m gonna say to him,” Johnson said in an interview earlier this week.

When the time came, though, Johnson was not at a loss for words. After organizers jokingly told Johnson — who’s known as a very effective fundraiser — he wasn’t allowed to ask Washington for money, he instead asked the A-list celeb to say hello to his sister — the sister who practically raised him when he was a child.

“I thanked him for his service, and then I said my sister just retired after 25 years of service with the school district. I asked if he could give her a shoutout.” Johnson said. “He asked me sit next to him, pats the seat, and said something to my sister. And I was the only CEO who got to have that experience with him today.”

Johnson captured the moment in a video which he posted to Facebook.

Also in attendance was Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who was honored earlier in the conference with the State Alliance Champion of the Year Award, which “recognizes leaders and decision makers who make significant contributions to the nation’s youth along with organizations that serve them, like the Boys & Girls Clubs,” according to a press release.

Johnson said the conference overall showed a lot of love to the BGCDC and his team.

“I never felt this kind of love,” Johnson said. “They had messages of my quotes around the conference. (Major donor) John McKenzie was highlighted, Madison Area Builders Association was highlighted. The way they highlighted us, it felt like it was our conference. It was amazing.”

BGCDC Chief Operating Officer Dr Sarah Ghee and Chief Developement Officer Laura Ford Harris with actor Courtney B Vance. Photo supplied.