HAVERHILL — It wasn't that long ago that girls were only allowed to visit the city's Boys Club to watch basketball games.
Sure, they could listen to stories about things happening at the club, as told by its members, but they could not be part of the fun.
All of that changed at the start of 2009, when the club changed its name to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Haverhill. One of the last Boys Clubs in the country to make the change, Haverhill's club took the big step of accepting girls and has flourished ever since.
On Saturday, the club will celebrate this fifth year of serving both boys and girls. The event is the club's fifth annual dinner and auction fundraiser at 6 p.m. at DiBurro's function hall. It will feature guest speaker Ray Bourque, Boston Bruin's great and a Hockey Hall of Fame member. Emcee is Leanne Eastman of Pentucket Bank.
"This is our kickoff event of the year and helps us to provide services to our members six days a week," said Brian Theirrien, the club's executive director. "The money that is raised also helps pay for the operation of Camp Tasker, our nine-week summer program."
The club introduced this annual celebration in 2009, when it opened its doors to girls for the first time since the club was founded in 1906.
"We started with just two girls and now we have 400 girl members along with 425 boy members," Theirrien said. "Our daily attendance went from about 80 kids per day in 2009 to over 250 kids per day now."
For achieving such growth, the club was recently honored by the Boys & Girls Club of America, Theirrien said.
"We beat every other Boys & Girls Club in the country," Theirrien said about his club's dramatic increase in daily attendance.