CHEHALIS — Like millions of latch-key kids, 10-year-old Marlin Fryberg had too much time on his hands. The child of a single, working mom was left to fend for himself after school and during breaks. Many of the kids living in his Everett public housing complex were getting into trouble, skipping school and using drugs and alcohol.
Marlin credits one thing for allowing him to rise above his circumstances: Basketball at the Boys & Girls Club. The Everett club was just down the street. There, Marlin shot hoops, competed in the club’s Panther League – and learned life skills, too.
“The club was a safe place for me and my friends growing up,” Marlin says. “It was fun and kept me out of trouble. That’s why I’m still a club supporter today. I know firsthand what is does to help kids.”
As an adult, Marlin moved to the Tulalip reservation. He was thrilled to see a Boys & Girls Club open there in 1997 because he knows the benefits are huge. The skills he learned during his club days helped inspire him to become an officer on the Tulalip police force and serve on the Tribal Council, where he’s Vice Chair.
The Tulalip Boys & Girls Club is the only one designed to serve Native American kids in Washington state tribes. Leaders of the Boys & Girls Club and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna have taken note. McKenna announced Monday that he’s provided a grant of $101,700 to help open more clubs in tribal communities.
“Club kids are less likely to take drugs or commit crimes,” McKenna said. “They’re more likely to graduate from high school. Young people in American Indian communities deserve to have access to the positive, life-changing programs offered by Boys & Girls Clubs.”
The grant comes from settlements with firms, including large drug companies, sued over violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Appropriate, McKenna added, because of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ powerful programs to prevent the abuse of prescription and other drugs.
AG McKenna made the announcement at the Chehalis reservation because of that tribe’s commitment to youth programs similar to those of the Boys & Girls Clubs. The Chehalis Tribe, along with the Yakama, Quinault, and Lummi Tribes, has expressed interest in potentially hosting a Boys & Girls Club.
"The Chehalis Tribe has conducted youth programs for Reservation kids for over 20 years, including after-school tutoring, athletics, and mentoring programs," Tribal Chairman David Burnett said.
Bill Tsoukalas, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, has traveled to Alaska, where the Boys & Girls Club has a strong presence in tribal communities. He’s eager to see the organization increase its footprint on Washington state reservations.
“Even though the Boys & Girls Clubs serve more than 159,000 kids every year in Washington state, thousands of Native American kids don’t have clubs in their neighborhoods,” Tsoukalas said. “This grant will help us prepare to meet that need.”
The grant will pay for a Tribal Coordinator to facilitate the opening of new clubs in Indian Country. The position is important because of the complicated approval process between a non-profit association and a sovereign nation. The Boys & Girls Clubs hope to open at least two new facilities on tribal lands in the next couple of years.
The grant to the youth organization is part of McKenna’s focus on fighting crime and drug abuse. McKenna is particularly concerned about the prescription drug epidemic. Deaths involving legal painkillers, combined with those from illegal drugs like heroin, have caused drug overdoses to become the leading cause of accidental death — eclipsing car accidents – in Washington state.
Concerned about the impact of the prescription drug epidemic in tribal communities, AG McKenna has provided a series of grants over the last year, including:
- $198,550 to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board to provide four “mini-grants” of $30,000 to the Lummi Nation, Lower Elwha Tribes, and Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribes to develop community based projects to fight prescription drug abuse. The grant also funded a one-day regional training conference held on Feb. 25 regarding prescription drug abuse among tribal members.
- $25,250 to the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling to help fund a Tribal Youth Music Academy for Addiction Awareness & Prevention. The six-day event in July taught more than 70 teens to write their own positive hip-hop music and become "music mentors." These mentors provide positive, peer-to-peer messages about avoiding drug abuse, violence and problem gambling.
The Attorney General’s prescription drug abuse page and RxIQ quiz.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725