CLEVELAND -- Stephanie Simon is a self-admitted crybaby.
This time, tears of joy streamed down her face, a welcomed waterway compared to the tears of sadness often unleashed during her childhood.
Cleveland Indians Charities donated $1 million to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland (BGCC) on Wednesday in support of the organization's "Save Our Kids" campaign. With the donation, the Indians have provided Simon a scholarship to attend Tennessee State University in the fall.
"Their mission is entirely consistent with what Cleveland Indians Charities is all about," said Indians CEO Paul Dolan. "We are about serving the kids of this community, and nobody does it better than them."
The BGCC serves more than 6,300 children in its five central locations and six school sites around Cleveland. The group provides after-school programs, meals, clothes and school uniforms.
Club president Ron Soeder said the "Save Our Kids" initiative has raised $4.5 million of its target of $16-20 million, which he hopes to achieve within the next five years. The campaign aims to maximize the reach of existing Greater Cleveland clubs, add new clubs in the city and build a sustainable endowment to support the children of Cleveland.
"This is an enormous development for us," Soeder said, "as we continue to design programs to help support Cleveland's youth and foster their self-confidence."
The organization reported that 67 percent of its children said the BGCC kept them out of trouble and 62 percent said the club helped them commit to their education. Whereas only 50 percent of students in the area graduate high school, 95 percent of those involved at the BGCC earn their diplomas.
Perhaps no one embodies that contrasting graduation rate better than Simon. The senior at Central Catholic High School didn't meet her father until age 12. He died last September. One of her brothers is serving a 17-year prison sentence. Her other brother has been missing for five years. Her sister gave birth to an HIV-positive baby before landing a jail sentence.
Simon used the BGCC to cope with the constant turmoil surrounding her.
"I could always go to the club and just cry and pray or whatever I needed to do," Simon said as tears trickled down her face. "This building is a home to me. I know I can come here whenever I need a place to stay, or if I just need to talk about life or school or anything."
Dolan said Simon represented everything that Cleveland Indians Charities strives toward when making a donation. The organization has donated nearly $9 million to youth-oriented agencies since its inception in 1989.
"[She] is the reason why we're here today," Dolan said, "the reason why Cleveland Indians Charities have been involved with the Boys and Girls Club for the last 20 years. It has been a marvelous relationship."