Without volunteers, the Boys & Girls Clubs would not be able to touch as many youth as they do in the many program areas that they offer. Four years ago the U.S. Olympic Committee offered the metro Atlanta region the opportunity to create a “Community Olympic Development Program” in Track & Field. Tobyette Simmons, a Boys and Girls Club volunteer, stepped forward and embraced the challenge of trying to implement and develop a sport that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta had never attempted to run. Over the past four years, Tobyette committed her time from January through August to educate youth, train volunteers and staff, raise funding, and plan all the travel and competition logistics. She dedicates eight months a year, and a minimum of 20 hours a week as a volunteer for the metropolitan Atlanta track program. In four short years, Tobyette has engaged over 2,500 boys and girls to run in this track program. With the hope of success, a byproduct of providing this opportunity, under Tobyette’s leadership, six of her kids have gone on to receive college scholarships. Twenty-two of these athletes have become All-Americans and over 100 have qualified for the National Championships. She has helped to not only change lives, but save lives.
Tobyette has also engaged parents in keeping the kids in the program active, as well as solicited support from local vendors surrounding participating Boys and Girls Clubs. This program is truly a community effort being driven by Tobyette’s passion.
In general when people give back to the community, it is usually through financial contributions or volunteering for a single event. Tobyette’s commitment however, goes above and beyond the call of duty expected by an average volunteer. In January of each year, she plans the trainings, event competitions, and logistics tied to each meet. Every Saturday during the months of March and April, she hosts “all-comer’s” meets which allow all Boys & Girls Clubs members in the area to participate. In addition to this, she dedicates two nights a week to organize practice with the teams. In May of each year, she coordinates and runs the Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Clubs Championship Meet. After that meet, she hosts the Boys & Girls Clubs Invitational. This has grown to be the largest invitational meet in Georgia under Tobyette. Tobyette still finds time to be the Head Track Coach for the Boys & Girls Clubs Elite Track Team that participates in the local, state, region, and national U.S. Track & Field Championships. While having a full time job, getting married, and having a child this past year, her dedication has only grown. She is strongly committed and the results are indicative of her leadership and guidance to inspire and enable others.
“It is not easy to work with youth from disadvantaged circumstances. When you add to it a program that has never been tried and has little or no support, why would anyone want to take on such a challenge; especially as a volunteer,” asks Matt Ryan, Director of Programming for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. “Well, Tobyette is about overcoming obstacles and providing optimism to others. The results from this program speak to that strength. She knows all the kids that have come through the program by name and she is affectionately called ‘Coach T’ by the many people in the community whose lives she has touched. She gives of herself with no expectation of something in return, just the smiles on her kids faces is the reward.
Tobyette Simmons is deserving of this award on her time commitment alone. But she is more deserving of the award because of the results she gets. I always worry she is doing too much, but she simply says, ‘If not me, then who? I love these kids.’ And we at the Boys & Girls Clubs and the community love her.”