SH teen is Boys and Girls Club runner-up, but still in money

Scott Swanson

Kelli Fanning was one step away from being the Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year earlier this month, but she got a surprise when she wasn’t selected for the honor.

Fanning, 17, a senior at Sweet Home High School, was one of two finalists for the award, which includes a $500 cash prize, given out annually by the club. The other finalist was Jordan Savage of Lebanon, who was the judges’ final choice, club Executive Director Kris Latimer said.

The judges, who included retired Sweet Home schools Supt. Larry Horton, Kay Liming of Umpqua Bank, County Commissioner Will Tucker and Ruth De La Rosa of Willamette Community Bank, based their decisions on interviews with the two, essays and speeches, the latter delivered on March 5.

“They both did an amazing job and the judges said it really came down to who was the most open in the interview process,” Latimer said. “If they could have awarded them both with Youth of the Year honors, they would have.”

The surprise for Fanning, though, was that she ended up with a cash award of her own – $300 from an anonymous donor.

“They were so impressed with Kelli that they are providing her with a $300 scholarship in care of the Club,” Latimer said.

Fanning said she certainly didn’t expect the award, but she’s thankful.

“I want to know who it is so I can thank them,” she said. “It was really nice of him or her.”

She said she’s prepared a card of thanks for the donor.

Fanning, who moved to Sweet Home as a fourth-grader with her parents Frank and Laura Fanning, from Chowchilla, Calif., east of Bakersfield, said she got involved with the club primarily because her mother got a job with the organization.

“I went every day,” she said.

She got involved with Boys and Girls Club sports, particularly softball, and currently plays for the varsity team at Sweet Home High School.

She also worked at the club, mostly as a volunteer, staffing the concession booth at Roy Johnston Field and taking care of other responsibilities around the club.

At school Fanning is also a member of the Amnesty International Club, which, she said, is focusing this year on combating bullying, and the National Honor Society.

She plans to attend Linn-Benton Community College under the Accessing College Today program, which allows students to earn college credits for free before receiving their high school diploma, next year, and wants to eventually be an elementary school teacher.

Fanning said she has enjoyed living in Sweet Home – particularly the natural surroundings, after having lived in what essentially is a high-desert region of California.

“It’s a better environment than Chowchilla,” she said. “It’s a lot prettier.”