HOLYOKE — in his 29 years as director of the Boys and Girls Club, Bruce E. Thompson was known as a master who brought the club to a new level and a mentor to many children.


Thompson, who died of cancer on June 10, 2008, was awarded posthumously the Masters and Mentors award, the most prestigious award the Boys and Girls Clubs of America offers. The award was given to his family last month at the annual meeting.

"He looked at every child individually and believed there was hope in every child," said Margaret Thompson, Thompson's wife of 36 years.

Thompson said her husband held the job as director of the club since 1979. Things changed dramatically in his nearly 30 years, of work, but his goal was always the same: Getting kids off the streets and into a place that was safe, fun and where they could learn. "He did such good work for such needy children," she said. "It was such an honor arid a tribute for his family."

The association flew Thompson's wife, two sons and a daughter-in-law to Atlanta for the annual conference in May. Thompson's wife, joined by 11 other family members who mostly came from Western Massachusetts, accepted the award in front of about 30,000 people. "It couldn't be more deserving," said Michael R. Sobon; the past chairman and a current member of the board of trustees for the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club.

Thompson was completely, dedicated to helping children and had a great vision for the club. He pushed club trustees to purchase part of the former Mount Tom Ski Area property, and he created the outreach program which placed satellite clubs at four city Public Housing Authority projects, Sobon said.

"His main concern was with the children. He is sadly missed," Sobon said.

Thompson also fit the title of mentor very well, said John P. Counter, who was hired last summer as executive director of the Holyoke club, replacing Thompson.

When he was a child growing up in the Flats section of the city, Counter said he joined the club and 'Thompson was his own mentor. Many other successful people also had looked up to Thompson when they were children, he said.

Counter nominated Thompson for the award, but said there were many people who helped and supported the idea. Under Thompson's direction, the club grew from 1,500 Children at one site to 9,000 members at 12 sites. He also added many smaller club programs as time progressed, he said.

As the former assistant executive director of operations at the Holyoke Housing Authority, Counter saw the positive impact Thompson's move.  To create satellite programs in housing projects had on students.

"The Boys and Girls Club America tries to reach the, most at-risk kids," Counter said. "What Bruce was able do was expand the program to the four toughest neighbor hoods, the public housing sites."