Boys & Girls Club Meets Youth Arts Initiative Matching Challenge

Mike & Karel Helgeson visit Roosevelt Boys & Girls Club’s visual arts program.


In 2014, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota embarked on an arts learning journey in partnership with the Wallace Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The organization was one of only three Boys & Girls Clubs in the nation to be selected to participate in the Youth Arts Initiative pilot program and implement the 10 Success Principles for High Quality Arts Programming, based on the Something to Say report. Staff selected four art forms based on youth feedback, including dance and fashion design at the Eastside Club, and visual arts and digital music and video production at the Southside Club. Professional artists with experience in youth development were hired to launch these programs, using only the 10 Success Principles as a framework for curriculum.

Funding from Wallace Foundation to support Youth Arts Initiative was on a glide path and ended December 31, 2018. Therefore, in May 2018, Mike and Karel Helgeson issued a $150,000 matching challenge to sustain Youth Arts Initiative programming from 2019 – 2021. 

One year later at the Youth Arts Initiative’s Spring Showcase on May 15, 2019, Boys & Girls Club board members and staff were pleased to announce that successful fundraising has enabled the Club to exceed this matching challenge.

“We are thrilled to announce that, due to the overwhelming generosity of this community, we have been able to not only meet the challenge set forth by Mike and Karel Helgeson, but we exceeded it!” said Board Member Mimi Bitzan. “However, this doesn’t mean that fundraising for Boys & Girls Club arts programs is over. It is critical that this community continues to invest in the arts for our young people, because of the many positive results these programs yield.”

Research collected by the Wallace Foundation revealed that high quality arts programming had a profound impact on our kids’ overall Club experience.

Kids involved in the Youth Arts Initiative reported a:

  • Greater sense of belonging in the Club
  • They experienced positive relationships with adult mentors
  • A greater sense of self-esteem and ability to express themselves
  • Kids involved in the Youth Arts Initiative stayed connected with the Club longer. Young teens kept coming back, as they got older, some of them stayed on to serve as mentors for the younger ones

Additional research by Wallace’s revealed more. Kids involved in the Youth Arts Initiative developed “creative sparks.”

  • Creative sparks are life skills that help kids build better futures for themselves.
  • Skills like increased self-awareness, better time-management and relationship skills.
  • These skills help kids do better in school and help them be better prepared to join the workforce.
  • Kids also begin to see connections between the artwork they are creating and possible careers they can pursue in the future.

Thanks to our investors who gave $2,500 and up:

  • Mike & Karel Helgeson
  • Wallace Foundation & BGCA
  • Dick & Mimi Bitzan
  • McDowall Company – John & Cherie McDowall
  • Dorothy C. Becker Fund
  • Central Minnesota Arts Board
  • Central Minnesota Community Foundation
  • Mardag Foundation
  • Matt & Aimee McDowall
  • Sandra Reese
  • Charlotte Stephens

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club’s Youth Arts Initiative and how to invest in it, please visit: or contact Youth Arts Initiative Director Aimee Minnerath.