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Jacoby Shelton, then 6, of Harrisonburg, tries to dribble around volunteer Jeff Redd, a James Madison University senior, after school at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County’s headquarters at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center in November 2018.

Each year, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County hosts a large fundraiser.

Last year, the event, called Big Night, marked the debut of a new song by roots band The Steel Wheels.

“Where Our Future Begins” was written for the local Boys and Girls Club in honor of its 25th anniversary, which came on Dec. 21. The Steel Wheels wrote the song as part of a series of commissioned works called “Everyone A Song.”

The debut of the song was just the start of the celebration.

U.S. Rep. Ben Cline recognized the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County on the House of Representatives floor, according to a Dec. 16 press release.

“For the past two and a half decades they have worked to ensure the children of the Shenandoah Valley have a safe and inclusive and supportive environment to call home after school,” Cline said in the speech.

Also, both the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County designated Dec. 21 Boys and Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham Day in honor of the anniversary.

Executive Director Sandra Quigg said it’s a big deal to receive a dedication. She said it shows how committed the community is to the club.

“It is an honor,” Quigg said. “For the club, what it means is that the community recognizes the importance of the club in serving the community. The community recognizes the importance of youth and youth development in both the city and county.”

The club, part of a national network that provides mentoring, safe spaces and programming to help young people reach their full potential, was chartered by Heather Denman and Larry Rogers. The first club opened in the Lucy Simms Center and served about 20 kids, according to longtime board member Andy Huggins.

Huggins said the nonprofit has expanded to seven clubs across the city and county that serve about 900 kids. A certified financial planner by trade, Huggins said the organization has stayed afloat through challenges and has become more stable.

“People have stepped up and donated in our times of need. I don’t think there’s a better investment in our community than in our kids. They are our future,” Huggins said. “Today, we are the strongest we’ve ever been.”

Huggins, who serves as past president on the organization’s board, is a fan of The Steel Wheels. He’d commissioned a song from the band before when he completed a section hike of the Appalachian Trail with friends.

Usually a corporate sponsor of the Red Wing Roots Festival, which the band puts on each year in Mount Solon, Huggins said he thought a song would be an ideal way to celebrate the club’s 25-year milestone.

The band, which formed in Harrisonburg around 2005, put together a video performance of each member playing their piece of the cheery and wholesome song from home for Big Night last year.

“It’s pretty powerful. There’s this one part where the harmony sounds like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” Huggins said.

Lead singer Trent Wagler, who wrote the song, said it was meaningful to him to write about since he used to live near the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, where the first club started in Harrisonburg.

“It was an honor to get to do it,” Wagler said. “It kind of speaks to the way that the Boys and Girls program becomes this leaping off point for a lot of people in different parts of their life, but something they can look back on. That’s where the title of the song had its origins.”

The song describes a club where anyone can go and be themselves. It doesn’t name Boys and Girls Club and it’s not necessarily specific to Harrisonburg. But the sweet stringed playing is 100% The Steel Wheels’ Valley heritage.

“Everyone is coming here for a reason, everyone has troubles in their day. We are together in every season,” the lyrics go. “It’s my club, it’s where my future begins.”

Huggins said he hopes the song can become a symbol not only locally, but also for clubs across the country. He is hoping that “Where Our Future Begins” can become an anthem for the national organization, which is headquartered in Atlanta.

“It can be used universally for kids across the country,” Huggins said.

Contact Jillian Lynch at 574-6274 or jlynch@dnronline.com. Follow Jillian on Twitter @lynchjillian_

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