By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

As the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena’s chief executive officer, Lisa J. Cavelier couldn’t imagine her facility without children in it.

That’s exactly what happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however.

“When last year began, we were open as normal as an after-school program,” Cavelier said. “Then March hit and we closed. We took advice of the school district and health department. I couldn’t imagine we were just going to shut down and not have kids in the building for the rest of the year.”

With the blessing of the health department, the two Boys & Girls Clubs of Pasadena opened in mid-June for an eight-week summer session, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., four days a week.

“It was phenomenal,” Cavelier said. “We had no cases, no exposures. What we saw in the kids was really important to us. The connections that the kids were able to make in a smaller atmosphere were really important.

“We opened one building with 70 kids. That’s very small for us. The kids were so cooped up that they thrived on being together and they thrived in a smaller atmosphere.”

The kids were in small pods and Centers for Disease Control guidelines were followed. The pods were helmed by adult leaders and, together, they formed family-like ties. When the summer session was over, the children and adults took it hard.

“The children were so emotional and crying when it was over,” Cavelier said. “It was so impactful to them. We invited them to be with us, be safe and to have a sweet pod grouping. We did great things together.”

Things are different now. The two Boys & Girls Clubs of Pasadena reopened in August in a modified and limited way, Cavelier said.

“We’re not an afterschool program,” she added. “It’s three full days a week, but we have smaller numbers because of COVID. We’re going to be afterschool in the fall.

“Right now, we’re monitoring and supervising distance learning two-thirds of the day. We make sure the kids are in class, following their teachers and not wandering around doing other things online. We’re watching them like a hawk.”

Once school ends, Cavelier said she and the staff want the laptops shut. She wants to see kids running around. The club bought plastic shields and plexiglass.

“A lot of the kids aren’t doing well with distance learning,” she said. “We’re committed to helping with that. The notion that kids have been really hurt by this is real.”

Since March, the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena has made decisions as a team. They have a three-part mission: what is the best decision for the children and families, what is the right thing to do by the staff, and how does the staff watch out for and help the long-term sustainability of the club.

“We’ve continued to thrive and I’m proud of that,” Chevelier said. “We’ve had some solid values driving us through those decisions. The notion that kids have been really hurt by this is real.”

Cavelier can’t wait until the sounds of a full club return.

“There’s nothing better than seeing kids just running into the building,” she said. “My office is near the front and it’s my happiest noise.”

Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena

2020 N. Fair Oaks Avenue

3230 E. Del Mar Boulevard