Ahwatukee sixth graders and their parents have a chance to enroll in a unique organization that instills a notion of giving back in the youngsters and strengthen the bond between them and their mother and father.
The 3-year-old Ahwatukee boys team charity – which deliberately uses lower case for its name and its acronym, btc – is currently recruiting new members to join its ranks of more than 250 young men and their parents.
The group is also exhibiting a changing of the guard as Michael Trilli turns over the president’s mantel to Joe Kerkhove.
Kerkhove and his wife, parents of two sons, have lived in Ahwatukee since 2003.
A senior leader at Scottsdale-based TPI Composites, global leader in manufacturer of composite wind blades for the wind energy market, Kerkhove enrolled both his sons in btc – Max, 16, a student at Brophy College Prep; and Sam, a 14-year-old Altadena Middle School student.
Current sixth graders are the target demographic because btc is open to any boy in 7th grade through senior year in high school who lives in an Ahwatukee zip code when it starts its new year in the fall.
Trilli’s two sons – Brandon, 15, a Desert Vista High School freshman, and Blake, a 13-year-old Akimel A-al Middle School student – also are members of btc.
An Ahwatukee resident for 14 years, Trilli is research director for Aite Group, a financial services research and consulting Boston-based firm.
Both men have found it rewarding to work with their sons in activities aimed at helping needy people.
Parent-son bonding and altruism are two pillars of the group, one of a number of chapters established across the country since 2001, when two Arcadia mothers decided to teach their boys about the meaning and importance of giving back.
They wanted to develop an altruistic spirit in young men through active participation in philanthropic projects in their communities.
“This is a family affair for the Trillis,” Michael said. “My wife, Tammy, and I have been involved at the board level for all three years and this year Tammy took on the team manager role for Blake and his grade level.
“All four of us have been involved for three years. The goal of btc is for each boy to be a part of the chapter from 7th grade through senior year of high school. We are both excited and embrace the opportunity to follow that path,” he added.
Trilli explained there are five critical aspects to the organization benefiting both the boys and their parents.
The organization serves the local community, developing a sense of social responsibility, while also promoting personal growth by building self-esteem and a giving spirit in the boys.
It also strengthens family relationships by deepening bonds between sons and their parents through volunteering together in team charity activities.
Those activities also “develop leadership skills and cultivate respect and an appreciation of others by working as a team and creating friendships,” Trilli said.
And btc offers educational opportunities by providing the boys “with the experiences to foster their community responsibilities and goals,” he noted.
With still two months to go in its operating year, Ahwatukee btc has logged 1,565 hours of service.
Belonging to the group has left a lasting impression on the Trilli family.
“The impact has been profound,” Michael said. “We are like a lot of families and schedules can get crazy, but this is a time away from that to take in new experiences together, discuss them and have those discussions seeing the world through their eyes and as a result, all of us have grown through our actions and conversations.
“It has also instilled a sense that giving back, learning and curiosity in any form is a normal, consistent routine of life.”
Those results pretty much confirmed Trilli’s initial reasons for joining btc.
“It was an opportunity to explore an area of personal growth for my sons through philanthropy and leadership,” Trilli explained.
Trilli, who succeeded Todd Heaton – the first president when the group formed in 2017 – said he was drawn by the prospect of what btc offered: “exposure to simple but important foundational real-life experiences.”
Moreover, he noted, btc “is structured where these opportunities and experiences are explored by boys/parents together and offers a unique opportunity to spend time together.”
As he looks back on his time as president, Trilling is proudest of two accomplishments.
“One, keeping up the momentum and enthusiasm built in the previous two years. The board and our membership group were instrumental in achieving that as we grew our membership year over year,” he said
“Secondly, we made a concerted effort to find ways to remove friction on all of us as we manage time and schedules.”
Noting “nothing rewarding like giving back is easy,” he explained, “We have listened and taken feedback from our membership to ‘make it easier.’
“One example is creating more opportunities here in Ahwatukee,” Trilli continued. “Another is we incorporated donation drives as a core part of our general meetings. Publishing the results of our donation drives has been awe-inspiring.”
Praising the “great board” he had to work with, Trilli stressed “overall the commitment is not too significant, especially considering we are onto something here and looking to build this long-term.
“The reality is we all volunteered for this and I can see all of us really believe in it as a platform geared for growth and development in our sons, so I don’t view it as time-consuming as much as doing my small part to keep a great thing going, he added.
As he prepares to assume the lead role in btc, Kerkhove said he plans “to build upon the foundation laid by previous presidents, Todd Heaton and Mike Trilli” and “to expand the participation from all middle/high schools in Ahwatukee while also expanding the number of volunteer organizations within the Ahwatukee community.”
The group’s calendar year runs from May 1 through April 30. Renewal memberships are running through Feb. 24 and new members can enroll between Feb. 28 and March 8.
The group has three general meetings a year at which a speaker shares “a unique story the boys and parents can learn from.” Trilli said, adding:
“These meetings also include break-out sessions, food, a donation to different charities and an activity.”
For example, this year boys and their parents engaged in dodge ball and bubble blaster wars.
In addition, each class has three team meetings – smaller groups offering a chance for leadership and hands-on learning.
“Overall, the service and meeting commitment are relatively low among the big scheme of things but the impact to all members is significant and there for the taking,” Trilli said, adding:
“It is the old adage you get out of it what you put in it, and it is great to see the boys and parents make the outcomes relevant to their own situations.”