Torch Club, Goncalves earn national spotlight for Boys and Girls Club

The Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club’s middle school program, the Ridgefield Tigers Torch Club, cleaned up on national awards this year, bringing home two awards for programs and also having one of its leadership team earn national recognition.

“We won two national awards out of five,” said the club’s director, Michael Flynn.

Torch Club leader Jeff Goncalves won the national Torch Bearer of the Year award, after being nominated by the middle schoolers in the club.

“I had no idea,” Goncalves said. “I’m still trying to put it into perspective. I’m very thankful to the kids — to nominate me and hold me in that regard.

“It was their words that propelled me to that top step — there’s thousands of Torch Club advisers who could have been chosen over me.”

This year the Torch Club won the Service to Club and Community Award with a “Shamrocks for a Smile” initiative that raised over $300 by selling shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day at a local Old Navy Store, and dedicating the money to benefit critically ill children and their families through the Friends of Karen organization. Friends of Karen partners with 22 tri-state area hospitals that have pediatric oncology or transplant units, and has helped over 14,000 kids and families since 1978.

The Tiger Torch Club also won a national Social Recreation Award for having created four themed “escape rooms” at the club, each with at least four clues, riddles or puzzles to enable the lock combinations to exit the rooms. The escape event they put on drew over 100 young people, including 50 non-club members and 20 members of the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club.

Director Flynn was proud of the honor Goncalves had earned for his work with the Torch Club.

“The program has grown significantly under Jeff’s leadership,” he said. “Not just the numbers, but he’s kept them engaged in the program and feeling like they’re all contributing. It’s kind of a family environment that he’s created.