Ty Herndon to perform Saturday at Athens State
By Holly Hollman
ATHENS — At 2 years old, Carlos Simpson was asleep on a mattress on the kitchen floor when a fire erupted in that room.
The fire burned 50 percent of his body. Because no adults were with him or the other children, authorities took Carlos from his mother and placed him in foster care.
He remained in the system, changing foster families until he ended in the home of the Morgans in Toney. His foster dad died, but his foster mom adopted him.
The now 18-year-old Simpson is adamant that without a Boys and Girls Club, he wouldn’t be on his way to Calhoun Community College this fall.
He’d likely be on his way to jail.
“He had a lot of anger after his foster dad died,” said Sylvia Allen, who works at the Harvest club where Simpson has attended since he was 11. “He had a lot of abandonment issues. After the fire, he was in the hospital
for months. He went through skin grafts.
“Then he has a foster family who loves him, and his dad suddenly died of a heart attack. He had a lot of behavioral problems when he came to us.”
Simpson said the staff there treated him like family and “put me on track.”
“If not for that, I know I would be in trouble today and not sitting here talking about my scholarship and college,” Simpson said Friday during a visit to the Athens club.
Simpson has received the Youth of the Year Award and scholarship money through the club, and also received the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award from the Volunteer Center of Madison County.
Simpson is working at the club this summer, along with two other Harvest teens who are former club attendees, Jarrell Clark and Shalequan Speights, both 18.
“I started in the seventh grade because my mom worked late, and they would help me with my homework,” Speights said.
Clark started when he was 11 to have a place to go after school.
“Otherwise, I would have been by myself at home,” Clark said. “At the club I met friends and had something productive to do.”
Kelsey Coggin, 9, of Athens, said Boys and Girls clubs offer her a chance to do art and sports, get homework help and take trips. The club offers programs for children after school and during the summers.
Suzanne Rainey, director of the Athens club, said the programs have experienced government funding cuts and struggle to have supplies and pay staff.
That’s why the Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama embarked this year on what organizers hope to be an annual major fundraiser, a benefit concert.
Country music performer Ty Herndon with guest Shannon Brown will perform this year’s concert on Saturday.
“We need funds to get over this hump,” Rainey said. “We need money to meet the needs of the 10,000 kids we serve in this area.”
Clark said the community can not only enjoy a concert but also know its money is helping children like him, Simpson, Speights and Kelsey.
“The club helps kids keep their heads up when all they are feeling is down,” Clark said. “It offers kids role models they may not have in their own families.”
Just as in Simpson’s case, Rainey said, it offers a troubled child a future.
Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama benefit concert
When: Saturday with gates opening at 6 p.m. Bring a chair or blanket. No coolers allowed.
Performers: Country music singer Ty Herndon with guest Shannon Brown. Herndon, formerly of Decatur, is known for hits like “What Mattered Most” and has released a new album called “Right About Now.” Brown’s debut album is called “Corn Fed.”
Where: Athens State University, on the field.
Cost: Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the gate or $18 when purchased at Railroad Bazaar and Preston’s Western Wear with valid student or military ID. Tickets also available through www.TicketWeb.com.
How you help: Every 10 tickets sold raise enough money to fund a scholarship for one needy child to attend summer day camp.
Club membership: The cost to attend club programs is $150 per child for the summer or $20 per week, and $100 a semester for after school.
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