Among 4,300 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield was selected to receive the National Merit Award for Program Excellence in the core area of Health and Life Skills at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America\u2019s 112th National Conference held May 1-4 in San Diego, California. The Ridgefield Club received the National Merit Award for Program Excellence in the core area of Health and Life Skills for their Positive Sprouts Gardening and SMART Cooking programs, as well as a $2,500 grant from MetLife Foundation. MetLife foundation is the sponsor of the annual recognition program rewarding local clubs for innovative, effective youth programing. The Club\u2019s Positive Sprouts Gardening and SMART Cooking programs are Health and Life Skills programs for Club members of all ages. These programs educate children through adolescence about wellness and social-emotional well-being through nutrition, cooking programs, gardening, and interactive and enlightening group discussions. During each session, members are fully engaged as they are taught valuable life skills and lessons, like sustainability and self-reliance through food preparation and cooking, garden preparation and maintenance, food safety, the importance of feeding your body with nutritious and delicious foods, and they also participate in impactful activities and discussions. Each lesson aids members in discovering their self-worth, being confident in that discovery, and honoring who they are. \u201cThe sense of pride and accomplishment members gain internally as a result of being able to grow their own food is unmatched. Being able to grasp that feeling of self- reliance and pride, knowing they are capable of growing and gathering their own sustenance is crucial in creating a lasting impact that they can take with them throughout their life. From start to finish, members are able to witness the results of their hard work, commitment, and dedication, and they feel proud and motivated to continue and share what they have learned as a result,\u201d explained Jess Podrazky, Program Director at the Club. \u201cIn a world of technology, it is so important to connect children and teens to the beauty and benefits of living simply, along with providing them with all of the resources necessary to empower their young minds and allow them to realize their full potential.\u201d The Honor and Merit Awards for Program Excellence are Boys & Girls Clubs of America's (BGCA) most coveted and prestigious program awards. This program recognizes local Clubs from throughout the Movement for their achievements in outstanding local program development. Award-winning programs are fun, demonstrate imagination and are linked to observable youth development outcomes. The Merit Award for Health and Life Skills was one of four National Program Excellence Awards the Ridgefield Club has received since 2015. In previous years, the Ridgefield Club was the recipient of the National Honor Award for Best Overall Program in 2015, the National Merit Award for Character and Leadership Development in 2016, and the National Merit Award for the Arts in 2017. \u201cWe are so honored and proud to once again be recognized by BGCA. Our Club continues to grow and improve year after year, and we have been able to impact more young lives as a result. We are fortunate to have one of the most talented youth development staff in the country, and it is our donors and supporters who allow us to employ the best of the best. This award really goes to the people of Ridgefield. Their belief and support is what allows us to thrive,\u201d stated Mike Flynn, Executive Director at the Ridgefield Club. The\u00a0Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club states its mission is to inspire and enable all youth to reach their full potentials productive, responsible and caring citizens. The club builds programing around three priority outcome areas: academic success, healthy lifestyles, and good character and leadership, providing program opportunities for 2,200 members and serving more than 3,500 young people each year.