Blue Cross of Idaho President and CEO Charlene Maher (second from left) and Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health Board Chairman Ralph Woodard (third from left) present checks to Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County Executive Director Colleen Braga (at left) and Director of Development Jodi Gempler (right). The funds will be used to provide free counseling and wellness programming to youth in Ada County.

The two organizations are donating $122,000 to support health and wellness programs at seven Boys & Girls Club locations in Ada County.

Youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County will benefit from free counseling and healthy lifestyles programming thanks to grants from Blue Cross of Idaho and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health.

The grants, totaling $122,000, will allow the Club to employ a full-time, licensed professional counselor to support the mental health needs of children who attend any of the seven club locations in Ada County. The funding also will help support the Triple Play Program, which helps at-risk children improve their overall health and well-being through wellness programming focusing on the mind, body and soul.

“Blue Cross of Idaho and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health are pleased to partner with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County and its mission to enable all young people to reach their full potential and grow beyond the classroom,” said Charlene Maher, President and CEO of Blue Cross of Idaho. “Idaho’s children are our future – they will be our new leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors and teachers. Giving children the chance to build healthy habits today sets a solid foundation and a chance for each to thrive as they become adults.”

The Boys & Girls Club hired a part-time counselor in October to provide services for children who were unable to obtain them.

“We realized we underestimated the need when all of the appointments were booked within a few weeks and we were putting kids on a waiting list,” said Colleen Braga, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County. “It has been a stressful time for kids and anxiety levels are high. By giving them tools to cope with their stress, they benefit through improved school performance and more positive relationships with the adults and peers in their lives,”

Support from Blue Cross of Idaho and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health will double the number of counseling appointments at the Club and allow for group sessions and parenting classes.

The Triple Play Program features a holistic strategy that includes mentoring, informational and experiential learning, encouragement and increased opportunities for physical activity and daily access to healthy meals through the Club’s nutrition program. This program is geared toward children at a higher risk for poor health, fitness, nutrition and substance abuse.

“Our goal is to help instill healthy habits that will carry through to adulthood,” said Braga.  “It is easier to develop good habits in kids than to curb unhealthy habits in adults.”