"It's the only viable resource for a vast majority of our young people," said Gilley, referring to the nonprofit's members, who range in age from 6 to 18. "We cater our schedule to when they need us most -- 7:30 to 5:30 during the summer and during the school year, it's immediately following school. ... We're open into the evening and stress supplemental education and civic and social responsibility, along with healthy lifestyles. So we're really basically here when the kids and their parents need us most.
"Kids that become involved, that stay involved in Boys & Girls Clubs, are graduating. They're making better life decisions. They're employable. They're socially conscious. They have a moral compass. So [they are] really just well-rounded young people."
To help cover the operational expenses at its Cartersville and Adairsville locations, Boys & Girls Clubs' supporters are reaching out to the community to partake in the nonprofit's City Motors Cartersville Century.
Started in 1999, the Cartersville Century has flourished through the years, now drawing about 250 volunteers and about 900 participants from throughout the Southeast. The event, which also offers cyclists rest stops about every 10 miles along the course and a post-ride meal, has grown into the largest single fundraiser for the local Boys & Girls Clubs, with this year's event on June 26 expected to generate $45,000. With the fundraiser estimated to account for about 13 percent of the Boys & Girls Clubs' $350,000 annual budget, recruiting riders and sponsors for the Cartersville Century is integral to the nonprofit's success.
"Most rides are down 20 percent, we've found out. But we held firm last year and we feel like we're pretty confident we'll have the same [response]," Gilley said. "So when other rides are in decline, ours is staying the same or is growing, as far as not only the number of riders but net proceeds which is why we do it. .. Probably 99 percent of our riders come from throughout the Southeast [outside] of Bartow County, which means we're bringing not just $45,000 to our club but these people are buying gas, they're staying here, they're eating here. So the financial benefits are equally beneficial to the community in addition to what it raises for the club."
In addition to the scenic routes, the event's chairman Walt Sullins believes the fact that the benefit is well-organized, located close to Atlanta and supported with multiple vehicles riding the course adds to the Cartersville Century's appeal.
"For a lot of kids, we're the only chance they've got," Sullins said. "Like right now, today, we're probably serving  kids in Bartow County between the Cartersville club and the Adairsville club.
"They're going to come there. They're going to have organized activities all day. They're going to be served two meals [and] two snacks today. Unfortunately, some of them may not get that meal somewhere else. Supporting the Boys & Girls Club is supporting the future of Bartow County. It really is."
To participate in the Cartersville Century, cyclists can sign up online at www.cartersvillecentury.org or at the event June 26 at 6 a.m. Starting and ending at Dellinger Park in Cartersville, the 8 a.m. ride features four distances for individuals to select from: 15 miles, 30 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles. Entry fees are $35 per person.
For more information, contact Gilley at 770-382-5500 or visit www.cartersvillecentury.org.