Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, staff writer Paul Wood chats with 39-year-old Urbana resident Charles Burton, the director of operations at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club. The former University of Illinois track star was an All-American in the triple jump.
Where did you grow up and how did you get here?
I’m originally from Louisville, Ky. I came to Champaign as a student-athlete on the University of Illinois track and field team in 1997. (He ran everything from 100 meters to 400 meters and competed in the long jump and triple jump.)
You’ve worked for the Champaign Park District and Lincoln’s Challenge. Have you always been interested in molding young minds?
I’ve been blessed enough to work for some great organizations. Working with youth was not the first thing to come to mind, when I initially made my career choice. My initial major at the University of Illinois was kinesiology, but that didn’t work out well for me. I transferred to Recreation, Sport and Tourism and that is where I began to see potential careers that were a better fit.
What attracted you to Boys & Girls Clubs and Don Moyer?
I am a proud alumni of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana’s Newburg Club. At the age of 10, I was out hanging with friends about to make some poor decisions and a caring adult saw me and challenged me to race his son. I accept all challenges and won the race. After graduating from the University of Illinois, I moved home and became a mortgage broker and was working every day. After work, I had several missed calls from my mother, so I rushed to see what was wrong. That is when my mother told me to go back to Champaign to train for the Olympic Trials. Of course, you can’t upset mom, so I packed everything I could into my car and traveled back to Champaign with no place to stay.
How did you survive?
I lived in my car for a while, stayed at the Times Center a few times and volunteered at the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club. I never knew that this would be the first step in a career of serving youth and families. I volunteered for a few months, became a van driver, then became a program associate, a lead program associate, teen director, unit director and the rest has been a journey that has led me to be where I am today. Volunteerism and giving back to others has made a huge impact on my life. A mentor of mine told me that “you interview for your next job, every day.” That statement has been pivotal in my success.
Can clubs be life-changing?
Boys & Girls Clubs are life-changing. All it takes is one caring adult, one field trip, one program/activity, one volunteer program, one tutor, one snack/meal, one opportunity or moment that can change a youth or even an entire family’s life. I’m living proof of the power of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. We focus on making sure each youth has the opportunity to find their passion, define their purpose, discover their potential and develop pathways to a great future.
What is the future of Don Moyer?
The Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club has a great future. We just celebrated our 50th year in 2018, which is a great achievement. The club has been blessed to have a phenomenal board of directors, continual community support and many caring adults who believe in the mission and truly care for the youth/families in our community. We will do whatever it takes for great futures to start here.
Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?
I love to cook. Grilling is the best thing. I will grill in 10 feet of snow.
What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?
My favorite book ever is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. I’m currently reading “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
I love dogs, especially boxers.
Who are your favorite musicians and why?
Earth, Wind & Fire, especially the talent of the group.
What’s your best piece of advice?
Never give up. The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. Success takes time.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
Summer youth employment program at Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation. I made $6.25 an hour.
Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?
I regret catching the flu at every Olympic Trials I competed in. I truly felt that I could make the team.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Face it head on. Stress comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over. The fact that you’re addressing the situation, even if it’s not solving the situation, reduces any stress that might come from it. The truth is that there is an opportunity in all things that happen to us.