Local CEO receives highest recognition by Boys & Girls Clubs of America
for his leadership and impact on Orange County youth and families over the last two decades

SANTA ANA, Calif. (May 31, 2024)Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast (BGC of Central OC) is proud to announce its Chief Executive Officer Robert Santana is the 2024 Thomas G. Garth Character and Courage Award honoree, the highest recognition awarded by Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Honored on May 17 at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Conference in Atlanta, the award recognizes a leader who embodies the character of a servant leader and demonstrates the courage to overcome challenges, making significant contributions to the organization and profoundly impacted the lives of the young people it serves.

Under Santana’s leadership, BGC of Central OC has flourished and implemented innovative programs and initiatives tailored to the needs of Orange County youth. He began his time at the Club nearly 20 years ago by volunteering and serving 150 kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana.

Since then, Santana has developed an entrepreneurial service model, including a network of dozens of Club sites, a collaborative impact strategy with over 50 nonprofit organizations, and several community-strengthening initiatives, impacting over 10,000 youth annually.

“This honor is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Club staff and partners who have helped make the growth over the last two decades possible,” said Santana. “I am truly humbled by this recognition. Our true measure of success is the lasting impact on the lives of the youth and families we serve. We are inspired to continue striving for excellence and ensure every young person in our community has the resources and support they need to thrive.”

Santana has leveraged his strengths as a social entrepreneur to lead the continued expansion of services and impact through mergers, strategic partnerships, and innovative program delivery models. This evolution includes the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana & Harbor Area Merger in 2016, two capital campaigns that raised nearly $10 million to renovate four Club sites, and has raised over $90 Million over the last 2 decades to benefit the youth and families of Orange County. The most recent development includes the 2023 Youth Employment Service (YES) merger, which created two new offerings — YES Workforce Solutions and YES Workforce Development to expand and enhance employment resources for Orange County youth and the corporate community.

Notable programs introduced to the Club under his leadership include STEM education initiatives, a Family Strengthening program designed to help families overcome challenges, and College Bound, a college readiness program that offers teens guidance on college applications, financial aid, and academic planning. Since its establishment in 2014, College Bound has awarded over $1 million in scholarships to graduating teens, enabling many to pursue their dreams of higher education who might not have had the opportunity otherwise due to financial barriers. Santana is now leading the Play Great Campaign to introduce a safe outdoor space for the youth in Santa Ana.

The Thomas G. Garth Character and Courage Award represents Santana’s relentless pursuit of excellence and innovative approach to nonprofit leadership. His service to positively impact the youth and families of Orange County has made a profound and enduring difference in the community.

To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast and the Play Great Campaign, please visit www.boysandgirlsclub.com.

2024 Thomas G. Garth Character & Courage
Honoree Video