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Why one Myra Kraft Community MVP is celebrating more than Pride Month

Jimmy Giddings has volunteered countless hours to the Boys & Girls Club of Wakefield. Thanks to a donation from the Kraft family and Patriots Foundation, he'll now have help creating programing to confront the rise in anxiety and self-harm among LGBTQI+ youth.

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While being honored at the Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards on Wednesday, recipient Jimmy Giddings used the luncheon as less of a celebration of himself and more of an opportunity to further help the kids he works with.

The Medford elementary school teacher was among 26 recognized at Gillette Stadium for their volunteer work throughout New England, with the Kraft family and Patriots Foundation donating $275,000 to their respective causes in partnership with Gillette.

For Giddings, who has dedicated much of his time outside the classroom to the Boys & Girls Club of Wakefield, where could you find a better pool of potential guest speakers?

"There are some really great individual stories in there and there are some great leaders amongst the community that I would love to have come into the classrooms and feature them," Giddings said. "So I was reaching out to a few of them and networking the towards the end."

This attitude is part of why his colleague, Anthony Guardia, nominated him to be a Community MVP.

Since volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club during his first summer as a public school teacher in 2018, he never looked back, taking on more hours and responsibility over the years to ensure the success of the kids who grew to love him.

It was turnover at the Wakefield branch that led to Giddings increasing his hours in the first place, seeing how it impacted the kids to see some of their favorites move on to new opportunities. On top of teaching at Roberts Elementary School full-time, he's at the Boys & Girls Club five days a week.

"Jimmy is a full-time teacher, a volunteer who regularly gives over 20 hours a week, and whether it is his students or our Club kids, he is always accessible to help them confront some of the most heart aching challenges," Guardia said in Giddings' is nomination letter. "On a macro-level, he is given responsibilities that no other volunteer would ever receive. He manages and runs programs, he mentors a specific caseload of children, he's listed on our staff directory, and we even ask him to attend staff meetings. This kind of trust has never been given to any other volunteer. We trust that Jimmy will create programming that lasts a school year, that he will help children achieve their goals short-term and long-term, and most importantly, that he will not abandon us as we continue our mission of ensuring great futures."

Beyond running Gardening Club, Club Clash, basketball and other activities, Giddings has earned the trust of his colleagues and the families they all serve.

Whether that means helping a family secure a no-interest loan, medication, or money to ensure a kid is able to stay at the Boys & Girls Club, he has gone above and beyond -- especially during the pandemic when so many parents depended on that child care.

"I think it's my years of teaching," Giddings said. "I can kind of see families in crisis. I can see the hardship wearing on them so I know how to ask certain questions to see what they may need."

Navigating life and anxiety levels after COVID-19, Jimmy hopes a $10,000 donation to the Club will help him continue to build on that. And just in time for Pride Month, Jimmy can soon start planning programming for a cause dear to his heart.

"One of the goals of us getting this $10 thousand was for us to open up a different club -- a community-based one in which kids have a chance to discuss LGBTQI+ issues," Giddings said. "We're trying to build it so that members of the community can come in and share their experiences. It will give the children a chance to see different perspectives and the journey of adults who have already gone through these different transitions. We're in the process of creating that."

Though he's an openly gay man, Giddings is the first to admit he doesn't have all the answers to the nuanced questions children may ask. Instead, he stresses the importance of lifelong learning and listening to stories of overcoming hardship in order to see what's possible for everyone.

"Having those voices are so important," Giddings said. "It's always the voices that aren't heard who we need to hear from the most. This new club we're rolling out in September will give us that chance."

Learn more about the other 2022 Community MVP Award recipients here.

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