Despite the gloomy weather, close to 100 supporters of United Boys & Girls Clubs took to the high seas on the evening of Thursday, July 8, to benefit the organization’s Westside chapter. The event — which took place on Santa Barbara’s own Channel Cat, a magnificent 85 by 41 foot catamaran decked out in Birdseye maple — was underwritten by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and other avid supporters of the cause.

One hundred percent of the evening’s proceeds will go straight to United Boys & Girls Clubs, an after-school program that provides more than 4,000 kids and teenagers with a positive environment to learn and socialize. It is with this cause in mind—and a sample of local tequila Sol de Mexico in hand—that guests set out to party for a good cause; and above all, as the organization’s CEO Mike Rattray put it, to “give a little bit of love to the Boys & Girls Club.”

The fundraiser comes at a crucial time for United Boys & Girls Clubs, as the five chapters in the Santa Barbara area—Westside, Goleta, Carpinteria, Lompoc, and Camp Whittier—attempt to take the organization in new directions. Typically thought of as a center for sports and recreation, the team behind United are shifting the clubs to revolve around education, and collaborating with teachers to expand upon the curriculum being taught in local schools. United is also maintaining close ties with parents and principals, who are on board with the UCSB-taught science classes and summer literacy program. “We’re changing the whole culture,” Rattray explains. “Education is king.”

Development Director of the Westside chapter, Magda Arroyo, agrees. Like Rattray, Arroyo is in her first year of involvement with United Boys and Girls Clubs, and she has hit the ground running. A Westside native and alumna of McKinley Elementary, Arroyo is passionate to make the Club that she deems a “hidden secret” readily available to everyone. Though she praises the “amazing” public education system, she believes we “need people to compliment it” — a task she believes United is up for. Transforming the educational outreach behind a 75-year-old organization is no small endeavor, a fact that Rattray readily admits; however, he is confident that the community will continue to support their mission. “It’s a work in progress,” he says.

And one that Santa Barbara is glad to stand behind. The “Cruise for Learning” drew folks from all over the city, each with a unique connection to United Boys & Girls Clubs. Throughout the event, guests sipped tequila from Sol de Mexico—a local, family-run business represented by Chris Harrison—and nibbled on appetizers provided by State & A, Tri-County produce, Whole Foods, and Ralph’s. The highlight of the evening, however, was the raffle: prizes included a stay for two at the Chumash Casino, dinner at Café del Sol, tickets to Fiesta Ranchera, and a day at Glenn Annie Golf Course. Even those left empty-handed were not at a loss—their presence alone raised funds for the Westside Club.

Arroyo is especially grateful to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and their irreplaceable role in the fundraising, which was successful on all counts. Though the fun was grown-up in flavor, it was centered around another age group entirely: this event, like the many others that United Boys and Girls Clubs are dedicated to organizing, was for the kids.


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