Celebrate GREAT highlights talent, honors supporters

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Jake Magee
Friday, October 13, 2017

JANESVILLE—The Boys & Girls Club of Janesville's annual fall fundraiser comes with a name change this year, but remaining the same is the goal of it being a fun and inspiring night that helps fund the club.

Previously called the Steak & Burger Banquet, the fundraiser featured a dinner, some sort of guest performer or speaker and a ceremony honoring notable club supporters and staff members.

This year, those features will remain but under the new moniker "Celebrate GREAT," said Sara Stinski, club executive director.

Those unfamiliar with the event might associate the Steak & Burger Banquet with the Pork Producers of Rock County instead of the club, so the name was changed, she said.

"Unless you really are familiar with the club, I don't know that it (Steak & Burger Banquet) communicated what it was," Stinski said.

The new name includes the word "great" to reflect the club's slogan: "Great futures start here."

But the name change is the only real difference. Attendees still will be treated to a dinner (chicken instead of beef this time), a talent show from club members and guest performances.

Performing this year will be Shane Decker and Trent Tomlinson, two country musicians who moved to Nashville, Tennessee. They have worked with and written songs for recognizable artists including Rihanna, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj and others. The two will tell stories from their lives and perform songs, Stinski said.

"I think it really is going to be an interesting night whether you're a country music fan or not. Nashville is a little bit like Hollywood --  there's a lot of neat stories that they have behind-the-scenes information about," Stinski said.

For instance, Decker was born in Janesville and raised in Indianford. In Nashville, he roomed with country star Tim McGraw before McGraw eventually married another country star, Faith Hill, she said.

Part of the event will allow club members to meet privately with Decker and Tomlinson.

"They love having a chance to ask a few questions and take pictures," Stinski said.

At first, organizers wondered if kids would respond to country musicians.

"And then we realized in the summer we play any and all kinds of music, and our kids are a perfect reflection of the Janesville community. They listen to everything from Top 40 to rap to country, and as long as it's popular and being played on some radio station somewhere, they recognize it," Stinski said.

The meal is a privilege for many of the kids who are rarely treated to a fancy dinner. Sometimes the kids marvel at the fact the tablecloths aren't made of paper, she said.

"Getting to sit down and have a formal meal is a super big treat for them," Stinski said.

In the summer, the kids put on a talent show. The winners of that show get to perform at Celebrate GREAT, making the event a reward for them, she said.

The night ends with a short ceremony recognizing notable figures who help make the club what it is, she said.

The event usually nets the club $5,000 to $7,000. The club hopes the event gets bigger in coming years, Stinski said.

"We're always looking to grow it, but it is essential. Without that, we would have a hard time playing the light bill," she said.

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