CLEVELAND -- The expression "You can never go back" isn't true. You CAN go back and you CAN take it with you.

When Leonard Stepp Jr. walks through the Boys and Girls Club on the west side of Cleveland, the memories come flooding back.

"It's been over 25 years since I've been here and when I got a tour when I came back, it just sent chills down my spine."

Stepp was only 10 years old when the club first opened in 1985.

"The Club provided me a safe place. It was a place where I felt accepted. It was like having an extended family."

He was raised by a single mother.

"It was just me and my mom and we moved quite a bit when I was a kid and she did the best she could. ... About a year after the club opened, we had a devastating fire and we lost everything. We had to move away. I left behind a lot -- not only all my worldly possessions, but everybody I knew as family."

His "family" at the Boys and Girls Club would travel across town and bring him back to the Club on Saturdays for the next two years.

"My first time back, they actually had some trophies from some sports teams that I played for and it just made me feel really good it felt like they didn't forget about me and they knew they would see me again. It was really like having just a piece of my life back and even at a young age. It was something unbelievably extraordinary to have. "

That was 28 years ago.

Stepp was recently inducted in the Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame.

"It's a truly humbling experience. I feel like this club gave me so much a yet they continue to give to me."

He is also on the Board of Directors and is once again "back home" in the Boys and Girls Club.

"It's not about sports, it's not about bumper pool and ping pong. It's about life. It's about being part of the community. It's about being a part of something bigger. Just because of where you live -- doesn't have to define you. This place will show you that and it showed me."

He is now the Vice President of Health Network Development & Administration at the Ashtabula County Medical Center.


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