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Busdriver Tour rocks park

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RONAN — The mission of the Boys and Girls Club is unique among afterschool programs, geared specifically and only towards helping children succeed while giving them a safe environment during the most critical hours of the day — after school hours. 

Executive director of Ronan’s club, John Schnase, said their mission is to “Inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.” To realize this goal, Schnase says the club, “Tries to provide a safe place for kids to go and provide guidance through role models.” 

The club offers snacks, recreational games like foosball, billiards, air hockey and outdoor games like kickball. The only real “work-type” requirement is the daily “Power-Hour;” a mandatory one-hour study session during which children are offered help with their homework. 

During the summer, the boys and girls club is the only youth organization that offers swimming lessons for free with a membership. 

A one-year membership costs $50 and breaks down to 21-cents per day.

“I know there are a lot of after school programs out there, but we’re open five days a week. A lot of kids need that; they need at least one thing to hang on to — we try to give them that,” Schnase said.

Boys and Girls Clubs currently have 4 million enrolled members in 4,000 clubs around the world.

To ensure the club remains a viable and effective outlet for these kids, Schnase said they’re always in need of general operating funds. 

With this in mind, board member Janette Rosman brought a July 16 Missoulian newspaper to work and found an article about The Busdriver Tour; a three-man-band featuring musicians Danny Freund, Paul Kupher and Ian Thomas. With their penchant for playing ragtime, folk, blues and bluegrass music and their proximity to the region, Rosman saw a massive opportunity to put on Ronan City Park’s first-ever music concert while entertaining the community and benefiting the kids. 

“Their music was just, so, Montana. I thought it would be a great family event for the community,” she said.

Musician Ian Thomas cut his teeth in the business by traveling for years as a street performer before he started playing clubs in New York City. With a genuine smile and tranquil demeanor, Thomas said a big factor in agreeing to perform the concert was a shared sense of duty between all band members.

“Ms. Rosman was incredibly nice on the phone, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. Giving back to kids is our duty as Americans, right?”

Originally from St. Louis, guitarist and vocals performer Danny Freund said he’d spent a lot time in the Flathead Valley, and considers it his adoptive home. At this, Thomas and Kupher smile and nod in recognition; it seems Freund’s assessment of the valley and his feelings towards it are a regular and genuine topic of conversation, giving credence to his statements. 

“I love the lifestyle here,” Freund said. “The people, the warmth — it’s about as close to the old days as you can get.”

The band performed a lengthy set to the applause and toe-tapping of a varied audience. Those in attendance ranged from young families to old couples and everywhere in between. As the donation bucket made its way around the park, the only sound rivaling that of the band was children’s laughter emanating from a nearby jungle-gym. 

Rosman estimates the Boys and Girls Club will net about $1,500 thanks to seven local event sponsors, the band, and the people of Ronan. “The atmosphere of the kids and the people and the band and the families (was great) ... there was a lot of electricity between the band and the people. They were such a good group, I can’t wait to do it again.”

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