WYOMISSING, PA- Julian Smith stood in front of 700 people and delivered a speech by heart.
“Every tough decision I had to make, I always heard the Olivet calling my name,” he said in front of a packed ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Reading, Wyomissing.
Julian, 17, is a longtime member of the Olivet Boys & Girls Clubs, which operate a total of eight sites in Reading and Pottstown.
This year, he received the Youth of the Year award for his leadership, service, academic achievement and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle.
Julian was one of several people honored Thursday night at the annual Steak & Burger Dinner.
In his speech, Julian told the story of how his life changed when he joined the club. He and his family lived in Reading at the time. At the club, he made new friends, played sports and saw his school grades dramatically improve.
All that changed when Julian’s younger sister was struck by a stray bullet while outside in their neighborhood.
After she recovered, the family moved from the city, and Julian stopped attending Olivet.
He said his grades, behavior and attitude immediately declined when he left Olivet, so much so that although they no longer lived in the city, his parents decided to make sure he could stay involved in the organization.
Now a senior at Berks Catholic High School, he maintains a 3.6 grade-point average, plays varsity basketball and is a member of the National Honor Society.
He plans to study pre-med/biology and hopes to be a pediatrician.
“Most hearts are red,” he said. “Mine’s Olivet blue.”
The crowd immediately stood and applauded Julian’s speech.
Pat and Meg Shields of Wyomissing were presented with the Champion of Youth award for their support of the organization.
As people ate, youngsters from Olivet sang and played acoustic guitar.
At the end of the night, Eric Savage, chairman of the Olivet board of directors, announced a pledge challenge.
An anonymous donor promised $35,000 toward the club’s summer camp program if Olivet can raise $100,000 first.
The organization has until July 25 to raise the money required for the match.