There are many reasons to attend the Saturday, April 20 Casino Night, the annual fundraising event to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Chaffee County. The event at the SteamPlant will feature music, dancing, food and real as well as “real” casino gambling, That evening will also honor Irv and Gloria Broudy with the “Club Hero” award and 17-year-old Athena Kintgen of the Salida Boys & Girls Club.

Kintgen earned the Chaffee County Youth of the Year award in February. She was named Colorado Youth of the Year during the state competition March 25-26 in Denver, attended by Gov. Jared Polis.

The state competition involved both written and oral components and included teen candidates from Denver, Fort Collins, Durango, Greeley and Steamboat Springs. Her winning speech scored the highest of the 14 competitors, which had to be memorized and delivered without notes or prompts to judges, told her story. Kintgen has overcome physical and family odds. Diagnosed with a hearing loss while still in elementary school, she had to overcome both her disability and growing up in a home with an alcoholic father, who died of hepatitis C and alcohol poisoning when she was nine. She becomes a role model at Salida Boys & Girls Club, teaching sign language classes and becoming involved with the Extraordinary Teen Council and Family & Youth Initiatives.

“The difference Athena Kintgen makes in the lives of young people at the Salida Boys & Girls Club propelled her to being named the Colorado Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year for 2019,” Brian Beaulieu, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chaffee County executive director, said.

Kintgen was a gracious winner at the state level, thanking her fellow teen competitors. “You are all incredible leaders. Do not stop, keep leading,” Kintgen thanked Salida branch director Tessie Ortega for being by her side as mentor, coach and confidant. She is the first ever Colorado Boys & Girls Club winner from Chaffee County; honored on the Colorado House of Representatives floor and recognized by legislators.

Kintgen, who recently starred as Helen Keller in Salida High School’s production of The Miracle Worker plans to attend include majoring in sociology at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. She has already earned a $5,000 academic scholarship from Boys & Girls Clubs of America and moves on to compete June 4 at the Boys & Girls Clubs southwest regional competition in Dallas, Texas. She will compete against state winners from Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Texas and Wyoming.

“The BGC Youth of the Year experience in Denver was absolutely memorable. Athena winning from the Salida club was like her ‘joyful, pure positivity and bold moment,’” said Duncan Campbell, board chair of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chaffee County. “She is a class act. In her acceptance speech, she let all the contestants know they are winners and leaders. Great futures indeed do start here. As a community, we are so proud that our clubs are changing the trajectory of kids’ lives.”

Those who can’t attend Casino Night but want to make a contribution to the club to honor Athena and the many volunteers can donate at www.bgcchaffee.org/Donate