Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson sorted through the crowd of more than 100 people shaking hands and wiping tears. The new activity room at the McKenzie Family Boys and Girls Club in Sun Prairie was overflowing with community members, camera crews, supporters and staff.
The project was 10 years in the making, and on Wednesday, Jan. 15, the 21,000 square foot facility at 232 Windsor St. had its grand opening.
“This feels amazing,” CEO and President Johnson said to the crowd. “I’ve been crying all day for some reason.”
Johnson was joined by County Executive Joe Parisi, Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser, donors, board members and staff in speaking at grand opening ceremonies Wednesday.
The center is on more than 2.5 acres of land and has the capacity to serve up to 200 children at a time in Sun Prairie. It is the fastest growing city in the state and has a school district where only about half of the students are prepared for kindergarten when starting school, CEO Johnson said.
The center will provide licensed after-school programming that includes transportation, as well as a full-time day care facility. In under a year, the Boys and Girls Club transformed the former church to a “children’s country club,” with a new gym, performance spaces, playrooms, classrooms, a technology zone, art room, several preschool classrooms and areas for students to learn about the trades. In the future, staff and participants will build a garden to learn about food and nutrition.
During the ceremony, sponsors like Findorff, who did the construction work pro bono, and the McKenzie family, who donated $1 million, were recognized for their support. In total, the Boys and Girls Club have raised about $2 million for the project.
Johnson said he is thankful for the support at the very beginning stages when the organization did not have “one penny” for the project–to Wednesday, when volunteers were working until 2 a.m. to prepare the facility for opening.
There were setbacks, where Johnson said he felt deflated, such as unexpected construction costs for things like a new sprinkler system, a new elevator, six HVAC systems and the removal of old asbestos.
But as every speaker mentioned the dream of the Boys and Girls Club of Sun Prairie becoming a reality, took a lot of faith and tenacity.
Johnson said that 150 volunteers donated more than 500 hours of service. And he hopes this building will continue to serve families and children for years to come.
“Welcome to the Mckenzie Family Boys and Girls Club in Sun Prairie,” Johnson said.