Nearly 40-thousand dollars was raised last night at the annual evening of wine and cheese in Eau Claire. The signature fundraiser, which is in its 8th year, is put on by the Boys and Girls Club, Hom Furniture and Festival Food. It benefits the youth in the Chippewa valley and across western Wisconsin.

Executive Director Sara Antonson: “The first few years it was about educating everyone about why we were here and what we were able to do. And the community embraced us.”

Thanks to events like Saturday’s evening of wine and cheese, the boys and girls club in Eau Claire has seen considerable growth since its arrival in the Chippewa valley nine years ago. It started with 13 kids a day and now 90 kids attend daily during the school year. They are expecting to hit 200 this summer. Executive director Sara Antonson says the goal of the club is five-fold in developing the life skills of their members. Antonson: “Character and leadership, health and life skills, the arts, sports and fitness recreation, and education and career. So all the money from this event in particular goes right to the club.”

With the evening of wine and cheese raising nearly 40 thousand dollars in back to back years. That funding goes a long way toward assisting the boys and girls club in helping fill a void. Tracy Smiskey: “For each kid it’s so different. For some it’s an academic need, others a financial need, some just need some social recreation with some friends. Now that we look at this organization and see that we span four communities and last year we served over five thousand youth in four different communities. It’s pretty amazing to see the response from the community.”

With the kick-off to their summer program just a few weeks away, Smiskey says the goal is to keep the kids learning over the summer months. Smiskey: “It’s really working with the kids to prevent the summer learning loss. Because a lot of the kids end the school year at a much higher learning level than when they will start the school year in the fall. So it’s our goal to make sure that the kids are engaged in the summer and engaging their minds. Getting out and having a good time being productive instead of sitting at home watching the summer roll by.”