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'Big Bash' to help DL Boys and Girls Club

DETROIT LAKES - He's only 20 and has already done more things that most people will ever experience in a lifetime. And he owes it to the Boys and Girls Club.

Stacey Walker worked his way through the ranks of Cedar Rapids Youth of the Year, on to represent Iowa and then the Midwest, and was finally honored as National Youth of the Year in 2006.

Walker will be speaking Friday, March 14, at the Detroit Lakes Boys and Girls Club's Big Bash fund-raiser event at the Speak Easy.

He has kicked back in the Oval Office and talked sports with the president of the United States -- he said the experience was more or less like talking with an uncle or buddy about current events and favorite sports teams -- and has spoken in front of Congress on several occasions.

"I was speaking to a club in Tennessee when I got a phone call from one of my representatives asking me if I'd like to attend the movie premier of Denzel Washington's 'American Gangster' movie. You know, to me, that's unheard of."

His award has opened many doors for him, and Walker plans to use those doors to better the world for future generations that may need the help.

He began an after school program in Cedar Rapids before it was even associated with the Boys and Girls Club. His mother had died, and at the urging of a family friend, he joined the club.

"In the early 90s, there were all these studies that showed youth crime rate ... a lot of those things happened right after school up until 8 o'clock when kids had to occupy their time. At any rate, I started going there."

That structured time was what he needed.

"It has really opened a lot of doors for me that I had not perceived. I didn't think a poor boy from Iowa would ever have these chances."

Throughout the process to national recognition, Walker wrote essays, collect letters of recommendation and give formal oral presentations to showcase his character and what he could do with the recognition. A recognition he is proud of earning.

"I find myself, in a lot of regards, and they let you know this is going to happen, being in an even bigger fishbowl, whereas you have a lot more eyes watching you, more people looking up to you. To be put in that leadership role is really humbling and I'm proud of that.

"In the same regard, you have a lot of eyes looking on it, your words of encouragement can really oftentimes change lives. If you've got any sense of motivation you can relay to others, that may be all they need to get involved with supporting the Boys and Girls Club. And this goes from the very top or elite in the business community down to the kid actually going (to the club)."

He said he wants to offer words of encouragement to kids, letting them know they can hang in there and become whatever they want. And to business owners, this could save some kid's life and is in fact training other kids to be the next leaders of the world, great thinkers, musicians, doctors, lawyers, etc.

"You have to make it clear that these kids are not a lost cause. The Boys and Girls Club is a family-oriented club that is trying to train up these kids to help them become responsible, selfless, hardworking individuals."

Those are just the items Walker will be touching on at the March 14 Big Bash fund-raiser. Walker said he likes to remind audiences that everyone is going through something, even if no one else knows it.

"You never know, looking at a kid, what it is they're dealing with at home."

Walker has two more years for his undergraduate degree and then plans to attend law school, with even greater plans from there.

"(Law school) can better position me in the public service sector where I can affect change, possibly at the legislative levels or in the legal world by legal means. What I'm looking to do is position myself that I can have more influence over the devices and faculties that affect our youth and the families of disadvantaged youth of our nation."

At next week's Big Bash, those in attendance will hear from this year's local Youth of the Year award winner Kayla Nelson.

The event begins with a social hour from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a program at 7 including Walker, Nelson and a member of the club playing piano.

"I think he'll be very interesting to hear," Executive Director Pat Petermann said of Walker.

The night also includes hot hors d'?uvres, a silent auction throughout and a live auction at 8:30.

Tickets are $25, and proceeds go toward "after school and summer programming at the Boys and Girls Club," Petermann said. Table sponsors are available at $250, which includes recognition and eight tickets to the event.

Some of the live auction items include a VIP WE Fest package (which went for $4,000 last year), Medora weekend (including lodging, golfing, musical tickets), Wii, pontoon ride on DL, Gourmet cooking with Michael Mercil from Speak Easy and more.

Tickets to the event are available at the thrift store, the club and from board members.

"We count on the large live auction items to bring in money," he said. "Enjoy the evening and hear what's going on at the club."