March 2021 Youths of the Month!

Every month we celebrate Kids who show active participation in programs, positive attitude and behavior, and helping others.

For the month of March, we are pleased to announce the following Youths of the Month! 

Valentina C. is our March 2021 Teen Youth of the MonthValentina is 12 years old and in the 7th grade at Finley Middle School. Valentina has been a Club member for 4 years and enjoys many of the programs offered including SMART Girls, Torch Club (of which she is the President), and Power Hour. Through Torch, she most recently led  a supply drive for the Youth Homeless Shelter sponsored by Family and Children’s Association. At school, Valentina very much enjoys going to Chorus and she has aspirations to be a professional singer. In her free time, she expresses herself through art and anime. According to our Teen Director, Stephanie Urio, when asked why Valentina was nominated for Youth of the Month, she shares “Valentina did a great job getting her homework completed every day and was a big part of the success of the supply drive to help kids her age that are experiencing homelessness.” In Valentina’s own words,  “I like that the Club helps me and others improve in school work so that we can do better. I also like that we have the opportunity where we can help others and make a difference.”

Samantha R. is our March 2021 Bayville Youth of the Month. Sammy is ten years old and in the 5th grade at Bayville Intermediate School. Sammy has been a Club member for three years and enjoys Kids in the Kitchen, Art and Triple Play.  She also enjoys taking walks and photos along the way. According to her group leader Mr. Matt, “Sammy is respectful, always kind and ready to try new things.” She wants to become a teacher when she grows up. According to Sammy, she likes the Club because “It’s a fun place to be with friends, and everyone is nice here.”  

Jasmine T. is our March 2021 Locust Valley Youth of the Month. Jasmine is nine years old and in the 4th grade at Locust Valley Intermediate School. Jasmine has been a Club member since she was in kindergarten and especially enjoys our Game Night program. She excels in Social Studies at school, and in her free time, she enjoys  playing soccer with her mom, but also really loves to dance! According to her group leader Mr. Will, “Jasmine is a sweet young lady who is a positive role model for her peers.  Just like Sammy, Jasmine too wants to be a teacher when she grows up.  When asked what she likes about the Club, Jasmine responds, “The staff! I like the Club because my favorite staff are there to help me.” 





Chip In to Make a Difference!

Chip In to make a difference at the Club’s Alumni and Friends Golf and Tennis Outing on Monday, May 10th at the Glen Head Country Club.

This year, the Club is proud to honor Stu Lubow, President of Dime Community Bank.  A longtime friend and supporter of the Club, Lou has demonstrated a strong commitment to making his community a better place.   

Although the golf portion of the event is Sold Out there are still opportunities to support one of our largest fundraisers by registering for tennis, participating as an underwriter, joining us for cocktails and dinner or purchasing a raffle ticket for two fabulous prizes, an Unaccompanied Foursome at Sebonack Golf Course and/or a Peloton Bike+.  The Peloton Bike+ was generously underwritten by Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty-Locust Family Office, The Finnerty Family, The Hanes Family, and Patrick Mackay.   

Leading the charge this year are Committee Members Eric Brook, Suzanne Brook, John Campbell, Susan Carusi, Anthony Core, Robert Deans, Lis Finnerty, Mario Gallo, Kathy Gelfand, Rich Hagner, Heather London, Colin O’Donnell, Joseph Savasta, Lori Souther, and Sean Simensky.  

The Alumni and Friends Golf and Tennis tournament is a fun-filled day that begins with breakfast, followed by golf or tennis.  Lunch is on the course and there are several contests and wonderful prizes for our winners.  Thank you to Land Rover of Glen Cove and Van Buren Buick GMC for sponsoring our Hole in One Contests.  The evening ends with cocktails, dinner, an awards celebration as well as a live and silent auction.   

Proceeds from the Alumni and Friends Golf and Tennis Outing are especially critical this year, in the wake of COVID-19.  The funds raised will help us to continue to provide incredible programs and services for more than 1,200 children and teens.   

To register or learn more about this safe and fun-filled event please visit or contact Christine Thomaides at (516) 759-5437 ext. 211 or 


Blast from the Past: Meet Judge Colin O’Donnell,1979 Youth of the Year

If there was any doubt about how meaningful it is to earn the title of Youth of the Year and be a Club alum, one need only to ask Judge Colin O’DonnellColin joined Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club when he was seven years old. Since the age of seven, he immersed himself in every aspect of the Club: sportsCanadian Camp, and Camp Small Fry. He also took part in a number of community efforts.  Ultimately, his dedication

Colin receiving his Youth of the Year Award in 1979

 to the Club, his compassion for others, and his academic success earned him the title of New York State Youth of the Year in 1979 And while that may have seemed a capstone achievement at the time, it was just the beginning. Colin would go on to serve as a camp counselor, coach, and even join the Board of Directors in 1988 — a role he continues to play to this very day.  

Colin O’Donnell began his 52-year connection to Grenville Baker Boys Club when he received his welcome letter from Woody Lewis in 1969 at the age of seven.  New to Locust Valley and with two hard working immigrant parents, the Grenville Baker Boys Club became Colin’s second home.  There wasn’t one athletic or recreational activity that Colin wasn’t a part of — whether it was playing flag football, baseball, basketball, joining the bowling league, woodshop, rifle range or just playing games and socializing — Colin was determined to be a part of it all.    

For several years, Colin attended Camp Small Fry, the Boys’ Club day camp, where he was not only Camper of the Week but eventually a counselor.  He has fond memories of overnight trips to Gettysburg, Montauk and Tobay Beach where the campers slept under the stars.  He also went on to spend time as a Canadian Camper.  It was one of the greatest camping experiences he had as a teenager.  Under the ever-watchful eye of 

Executive Director, Woody Lewis and the rest of the counselors, Colin learned how to fish, do his own laundry and water ski on Holmes Lake. His experience at the Club’s camps was so positive that when he was eligible   — Colin became a Camp Small Fry Counselor and learned his first lesson in paying taxes — when Woody took FICA out of his $15 per week paycheck!  He was a counselor and summer employee for five years and became the Club’s and the Boys Club of America’s New York State Youth of the Year in 1979.   

Colin went on to Bucknell University on a partial Club scholarship — then Seton Hall law school and in 1988, during his first year in the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, he was asked by Woody to join Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club’s Board of Directors.  He continued to remain active in the Club participating in the Alumni Association as president, coaching and refereeing baseball, soccer and basketball.  He also initiated the Teen Tour travel Camp and chaperoned ski and snowboard trips.   

Currently, Colin resides in Bayville and is an elected Judge of the Nassau County District Court.  Colin is the first Club member to be elected President of the Board of Directors. During his tenure he oversaw the successful building campaign and construction of the new gymnasium and the increase of the Club’s endowment portfolio. Having been active in all aspects of the Club’s activities and volunteer governance he feels that it is important to give back and provide opportunities to our communities’ youth.  

Today, Colin is an elected Judge of the Nassau County District Court

Colin’s Essay for his Youth of the Year application was reprinted in The Leader

Joe Valli Named 2021 Youth of the Year!

Joe Valli always knew that Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club would be a big part of his life. As his family home shares a fence with the Club, an afternoon

Joe Valli – 2021 Youth of the Year!

of fun, playing sports, and spending time with friends was just a 30second walk away. And so, his journey with the Club began when Joe was just six years old. Today, 12 years later, Joe has been involved in just about everything the Club has to offer. He fondly recalls learning to play ping pong in the gamesroom (something he still enjoys) and developing his love for sports on our fields and in the gyms. 

As he grew older, Joe became involved in the Torch and Keystone Clubs, where he developed a passion for helping others. Through these groups, Joe and his peers spent time with veterans, played baseball with developmentally-challenged kids, helped in soup kitchens, and took part in a Habitat for the Humanity project. His commitment to community service, compassion, and his leadership skills did not go unnoticed as Joe was elected President of Keystone Club last year. 

Even while Joe was deeply involved in our Club through the years, he found time to develop outside interests and skills. For instance, since he was a little boy, Joe has been a Boy Scout, and last year he became an Eagle Scout – another high honor! He also does well in school, plays JV soccer, and finds time to help others.  

Joe truly embodies the qualities of a Youth of the Year. He is someone who embraces the values of the Boys & Girls Club movement through leadership skills, service to community and family, academic performance, spiritual values, life goals, and public speaking abilities. 

About our other Amazing Youth 

The designation of Youth of the Year is one that is highly coveted. While there can only be one Youth of the Year, without fail, each year we have a number of wonderful kids who also deserve to be recognized for their academic and athletic endeavors, dedication to community service, and commitment to upholding the values of the Boys & Girls Club movement.  

This year, eight young people applied for this award. Each of them had a story to share and a journey of which we are all proud. We are pleased to acknowledge the admirable accomplishments of: 

Carlos Arana, Darlin Canales, Stephanie Flores, Brian Graham, Bertha Hernandez, Emerson Ronquillo, and Edgar Vasquez 

An Ordinary Afternoon that was Extraordinary

People often ask how Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club “inspires and enables all young people to realize their potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens and community leaders of tomorrow.” The answer is as complex as childhood, itself. Afterall, there are so many ways to interpret what it means to be “productive, responsible, caring and a leader” … and there are even more ways in which to accomplish these feats.

The process of growing up is not linear; it is not one or two lessons that make a person who they eventually come to be. Rather it is the collection of experiences and the presence of various role models that shape children on their unique journeys toward adulthood. With this sentiment in mind, our Club provides a wide range of experiences and positive relationships to help children learn, grow, and flourish. Indeed, our programmatic framework is based on five core areas that allow children to explore their interests, build their confidence, and develop a sense of belonging and community. These are: Character & Leadership Development, Education & Career Development, Health and Life Skills, The Arts, and Sports, Fitness and Recreation.

Oftentimes these core areas are evident through formal programs. But sometimes these values are best imparted when they are woven into simple, seemingly everyday experiences. That’s what happened on Friday, February 5th. On a sunny afternoon between snowstorms, our staff at our Bayville K-5 site felt that it was a wonderful day for a stroll along the Sound. As the weather was sunny and mild, the kids were excited to be near the water to explore and enjoy the fresh air. As they walked along the shoreline, Club staff helped the kids identify interesting objects like shells, sea glass, and fish bones.

Beyond the natural beauty, the kids also observed garbage and debris strewn about. Our staff took this opportunity to discuss the environment and how each person has a responsibility for caring for their surroundings… not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of all. The kids immediately latched on to the idea of a beach clean-up! When they had done all they could do before the sun went down, one child, Kawaun, remarked that cleaning up was not only important and productive, but also a rewarding way to “hang out with my best buds.”

What I love about a story like this is that it may seem ordinary — children enjoying time with friends, skipping rocks, and cleaning up the beach. But this experience was so much more than kids exploring the great outdoors; it was science, community service, social interactions, and physical exercise all intertwined. In this way, the story of an afternoon outing is quite extraordinary.

Once a Club Kid, Always a Club Kid

Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Rhodes


Melissa Rhodes joined Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club when she was just 8 years old. Little did she know then that belonging to the Club would come to define her life in so many ways. In fact, Melissa and her brother Rich belonged to the Club through their formative years. Melissa stayed active through middle school and high school, getting involved with Torch and Keystone Clubs, and later going on to become a summer camp CIT/Counselor (even through her college years.) 

When she was in the 10th grade, the Club profiled her in its 1994 Annual Appeal Brochure. At that time, she shared that her life goal was to “be able to raise a family with an awareness of the issues facing youth in 2000 and beyond.” 

Today, these many years later, Melissa has done just that as she now serves Grenville Baker’s Director of Programs and Professional Development. As lead architect of the Club’s many enriching, engaging and educational programs, Melissa is indeed ensuring that our whole family of 1200+ youths not only understand the issues of the 2000s, but also comprehend that they have bright futures! 

Indeed, Melissa has spent 20 years in the Boys & Girls Club movement, serving in leadership roles both regionally and nationally.  When asked why she has dedicated her life to the Boys & Girls Club she remarks, “The Club meant so much to me and my brother Rich when we were young. Our parents were separated, so my mother was essentially a single parent. The Club was initially our caregiver, but it quickly became so much more.”  

Indeed, Melissa’s own memories not only capture the long-standing traditions of the Club, but also influence how she shapes the future for our kids. Among her favorite memories was becoming a member of the Club’s Drama program in which the kids would put on two to three plays a year for the membership and families. She notes that the rehearsals and performances helped her overcome her shyness and “come out of her shell.” It’s not surprising that our Club offers a variety of performing arts opportunities today! Melissa also served as the President of the Torch and Keystone Clubs in her day, which she credits for helping her to develop strong leadership skills and commitment to community service.  

All these years later, Melissa has come full circle: serving kids just like herin the very same community, at the very same Club. She adds, “I always say that there is “magic” that happens at our Club. What a better way to pay it forward and make a living at the same time than by helping to perpetuate that magic? It is an honor to be back at the organization that I started my career at 20 years ago.”


Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club is pleased to announce new positions to its Board of Directors. John Campbell has been elected to the position of President of the Board. The Club is also pleased to welcome Natalia Good and Sean Simensky to its Board.  

John Campbell

John Campbell 
John Campbell will serve as Board President for 2021. John became involved in the Club began when his children were members, more than 15 years ago. From there, his passion for Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club and its role in “inspiring youth the realize their full potential” grew.  Over the years, John has served as President of the Board (from 2011-2014), as a Youth of the Year Judge, and on the Executive, Operations, and Golf Committees.  In his professional life, he is a Senior Vice President- Investments at UBS Financial Services in Jericho, NY.   

John Campbell remarks, “My involvement at the Club has been a blessing for me and time well spent. For all that I have given, I have received so much more. I have been privileged to see the inside story on all the Club does for the children of this community.” 

Erick Brook has been named President-Elect for 2021 in preparation for leading the board in 2022. Eric is also the current Treasurer and serves on the Executive and Golf Committees. 

Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club is also delighted to welcome new Board members Natalia Good and Sean Simensky 

Sean Simensky

Natalia Good

Natalia P. Good, an attorney and graduate of Fordham Law School, is a veteran volunteer of Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club. She started volunteering as a tutor and then went on to serve on the Gala, Youth of the Year Selection, and Operations & Safety Committees. Beyond her commitment with the Club, Natalia is also involved in the UJA Long Island Women’s Cabinet, conducts interviews for Duke University’s Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee, and has served in various fundraising capacities for several local nonprofits. She currently resides in Locust Valley with her husband Adam and their two children. 


Sean N. Simensky also joins our Board this year. An alumnus of the Club, he understands deeply the work we do and, in fact, he and his family have been dedicated volunteers and supporters for many years. Most recently, Sean has served on our Gala and Operations & Safety Committees. In his professional life, Sean is an associate at Rivkin Radler in the firm’s Banking and Corporate Practice Groups and concentrates his practice on general corporate representation of private national and international companies, not-for-profit corporations, as well as representing financial institutions, private lenders and borrowers in loan transactions. In 2019, Sean was honored by Long Island Business News as a “30 Under 30” award recipient.  


Healthy Snacks Bring Joy

Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club is delighted to have been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Joy in Childhood Foundation to help enhance its afterschool healthy snacks program. We are very grateful for this gift as we know that good nutrition is integral to children’s wellbeing and helps them stay on track to reach their full potential.  

Thanks to the owners of Dunkin’ Donuts in Bethpage, Louis Brienza and Bruce Carusi, the Club was recommended to the foundation for consideration. The mission of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation is to bring joy to kids battling hunger or illness. Kari McHugh, Executive Director of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation remarks, “We are so proud to support Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club with a grant to help provide healthy snacks to kids in the Locust Valley area. 

Indeed, this grant is a wonderful contribution to our afterschool program as we provide daily snacks for approximately 200 kids a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year. As children come to the Club directly from school, they arrive hungry for a nutritional boost. This grant will supplement the Club’s existing snack program, allowing us to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and string cheese so that kids have the energy to get their homework done, take part in activities, and have fun. 

L to R: Theresa Codispoti, Operations Manager Dunkin’ Brands; Ramon Reyes, GBBGC Executive Director; Louis Brienza, Dunkin’; Franchise Owner; Bruce Carusi, Dunkin’ Franchise Owner.