Boys and Girls Club names Billings Youth of the Year

2014-03-10T00:00:00Z 2014-03-10T13:37:04Z Boys and Girls Club names Billings Youth of the YearBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Chase Hatzenbihler knows how it is for kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County.

After all, the Skyview High senior spent years as one of them before, a few years ago, taking on a role as a junior staff member at the Bench Clubhouse in the Heights.

"I used to be one of those kids running around," he said. "It's interesting seeing it from this side. It hardly even feels like a job to me."

It's that dedication, enthusiasm and experience that inspired local club officials to name Hatzenbihler the BGCYC Youth of the Year, putting him in the running to be honored as the Montana Youth of the Year at a conference Monday in Helena.

"I remember him from when he was a little kid and and he has grown into an incredibly fine young man and a really valuable member of our team," said Brian Dennis, the clubs' chief professional officer. "He's what we hope these kids can become."

Hatzenbihler has been involved with the clubs for about half of his life. He was a club kid at the Castle Rock Clubhouse from its opening days in 2005, the sixth youth to sign up there.

He started attending every day after school, along with his two siblings. When he hit high school, Hatzenbihler came on as a junior staff member, acting as a mentor to the kids at the Bench club.

"Since I was a member, I definitely know what it's like for someone to come and talk to me as a club kid," he said. "I like taking a nice, calm approach, letting them know, 'I'm just talking with you. I'm not pointing fingers at you or anything like that.'"

Dennis praised Hatzenbihler for his work ethic and commitment to the club.

"The kid never misses work," Dennis said. "He won't miss work."

The club, and his job there, have meant so much to Hatzenbihler that he missed very little work during the most difficult time of his life.

About three years ago his father, Scott Hatzenbihler, was diagnosed with cancer. After numerous treatments, his father died of complications of the illness last August.

All during that time, Hatzenbihler continued to work at the club each week and, immediately after his father's funeral, he returned to work.

"Having this place to go was an escape, but it was also a positive place," he said. "My dad was always about helping other people out and he always liked knowing what I was doing here."

After graduating this spring, Hatzenbihler plans to enroll at Montana State University Billings next fall. While in college, he plans to continue working for the clubs and Dennis said he'll have the chance to move into the role of a youth development assistant.

"We want to help create walking, talking success stories and Chase is as good as they come," Dennis said. "The challenges he has faced and dealt with and, frankly, has overcome, are a credit to his personality."

On Monday, Hatzenbihler, Dennis and other local club staff will travel to Helena for the state Youth of the Year competition, which will also feature club youth from Havre, Lame Deer, Bozeman and Malmstrom Air Force Base.

"It's just such an honor to represent all the clubs across Billings," Hatzenbihler said. "To actually be the face that's representing such a positive place for kids to go in our community is such an honor."

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