After a five-month hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the much-anticipated 60th Annual Cinderella Charity Ball will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Esports Stadium Arlington.
The Cinderella Ball is Arlington’s oldest continuing social charitable event, raising money that benefits the Arlington programs of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County. Beginning earlier this year, 20 local high school girls – the candidates for the title of Miss Cinderella 2020 (pictured to the left) – solicited donations, the total of which will be revealed at the Ball. Last year, Miss Cinderella candidates raised $556,087.19 for the clubs, as Anna Leigh Hoffman raised the largest total, $211,902.71, to become the 2019 Miss Cinderella.
Cinderella Ball is hosted and managed by the Ladies Auxiliary of Arlington. It has raised nearly $11 million since its inception six decades ago.
This year’s donations take on special significance, given how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the region. Since March, says BGCGTC President and CEO Daphne Barlow, the organization has been pitted against uncertainty for the future. But armed with a passion to ensure the success of youth regardless of the present situation, the BGCGTC immediately pivoted and sprang into action and began meeting the basic needs of children and families through daily dinner distribution and provision of learning kits and activities.
“The organization has led the way among school-age providers by convening child care resources and organizations to effectively coordinate throughout the pandemic, adapting as major needs arise,” Barlow says. “Over the summer and into the fall, BGCGTC has been effectively meeting the needs that are expected to grow and persist beyond the immediacy of the spring COVID-19 crisis.”
With schools closed, many children were left without basic food, as parents were forced to stay home to care for their kids without receiving income. Parents were pushed to find means to feed their children throughout the day, a need that was previously met elsewhere. BGCGTC stepped in to offer a solution to a growing community problem of food insecurity. As of Aug. 1, more than 145,590 meals were served throughout the county. Twenty-six large food bank distributions have occurred at the Club during the summer, totaling 254,263 pounds being distributed.
“As the crisis continued, and BGCGTC opened curbside meal distribution in the neighborhoods who needed the most support, it became glaringly apparent that many families who have not previously needed to rely on the Club before turned to BGCGTC for support as the economic effect of the pandemic impacted many families in the community,” Barlow says. “As a result, BGCGTC acted quickly to expand its summer services to include mobile meal distribution and on-site programming.” To date, 48,279 mobile meals have been delivered to 24 unique locations.
As the school year began, concern arose regarding the academic impact virtual schooling may have on children, especially those in low-income communities. Lower-income students are significantly less likely to have access to high-quality remote learning resources, or to a conducive learning environment at home. Inhibiting factors include a quiet space with minimal distractions, devices the students do not need to share, high-speed Internet, adequate technology and parental academic supervision or support. “Youth from the target areas need positive guidance from caring, adult role models,” Barlow says. “These children desperately need accountability and support to defy the odds stacked against them.”
To that end, BGCGTC initiated a virtual Club model that offers accessible, high-quality programming that youth can access from the safety of their homes. These high-quality academic and healthy lifestyle resources are communicated to kids and families directly and via the organization’s website, bgcgtc.org, supplementing the learning distance opportunities provided by school districts.
“In-person support is being offered to help students who need the most support during the virtual learning experience,” Barlow says. “With the start of school in Arlington ISD, the BGCGTC opened four in-person learning centers, including ones at Main Branch and East Branch in Arlington. These learning centers are key to helping students who need the support most stay on track. With reliable WIFI, assistance from training adults and meals each day, the program is supplemented with social and emotional programs and physical activity to help keep the mind, body and soul developing as healthy as possible.”
While taking the aforementioned measures, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County continues to adapt and respond to the emerging needs of thousands of young people and families it serves, Barlow says. “Even as priorities have changed quickly, the organization remains agile and is providing the most relevant solutions so youth who need them most have the resources they need to become responsible citizens,” she says. “Since 1926, this has been the hallmark of the Club’s mission. And that remains unchanged.”