Tony Orr, southeast regional vice president for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, is among an illustrious group of people including award-winning entertainers, professional athletes, prominent entrepreneurs and corporate executives, who got their start as children mentored by adults at Boys & Girls Club of America.
Now a successful business and community service leader, Orr revels in the fact that over the past 20 years, he has helped to change the lives of 25 boys as a mentor at Boys & Girls Clubs himself. That’s because as a young boy of five, he knew what it felt like to be unofficially relegated to a life with no future, other than to grow up going in and out of prison or ending up dead at a young age, because that’s the environment from which he came. However, after coming to live with his grandmother who immediately signed him up for the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte, upon becoming his guardian, Orr’s young life took a more positive direction.
“I met my first male role model at Boys & Girls Clubs and his name was Mr. Roosevelt, who ran Boys & Girls Clubs in Charlotte where I grew up, and who literally changed the trajectory of my life by instilling hope in me,” says Orr. “I’ve also been blessed to have mentored around 25 boys into young adulthood, all of whom I still keep in contact today. I am so thankful that God aligned my footsteps to be able to participate in Boys & Girls Clubs and be mentored as a young boy,” he said.
Today, Orr serves as Southeast Regional Vice President with the same organization that had such a tremendous impact on his life, and is primarily responsible for connecting leaders, influencers and people who care about the mission of Boys & Girls Clubs, and helping find ways to partner with them to create more great futures for kids throughout the region. He works closely with the regional Board of Trustees, so the organization can continue its important work for children throughout the region and the 4600 Boys & Girls Club facilities across the country.
In fact, Orr has made quite a name for himself as a fundraiser for the organization, being responsible for the largest individual gift of $10 million given to Boys & Girls Clubs in its 155-year history.
“Who would have thought that I’d end up having a 16-year career at the organization that has been so beneficial to my life as a child,” shared Orr, “but I’m very proud of the work I do and think I have one of the best jobs in America, getting to work with top executives at Fortune 500 companies, athletes, celebrities, etc., to help them direct their corporate and social responsibility in the direction of the Boys & Girls Clubs, so more young people can benefit from this vitally important organization,” he said.
One of the projects Orr is helping to see through to completion is the building of another Boys & Girls Club facility in Greenwood, SC, by Josh Norman, a NFL player with the Washington Redskins, who is building a 12,000 square-foot teen center in Greenwood, where he grew up.
More than 16 million people have received direct, life-changing impact as a result of being mentored by adults through Boys & Girls Clubs. In fact, over 54 percent of former Club kids say that it changed their life. Although not a famous celebrity, Orr is among famous Boys & Girls Clubs alumni, like Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Cuba Gooding, Kerry Washington, Michael Jordan, etc., who were mentored as children at Boys & Girls Clubs.
Now working out of its headquarters in Atlanta, Orr encourages people to visit Boys & Girls Clubs and learn how they too can make a difference as potential mentors to young people, because he says it can make all the difference in the world.
“I am the first in the family to graduate high school and go to college, those were pipe dreams for kids in the community where I grew up, but the mentorship and guidance I received from being part of Boys & Girls Clubs helped save my life,” said Orr. “We as individuals can each make a huge difference and collectively we can do even more. Someone made a difference in my life and in the lives of all the kids who have come through Boys & Girls Clubs over the past 150 years. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, which says, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’”