Milestone Anniversary: The Boys and Girls Brigade

The Boys and Girls Brigade in Neenah will celebrate its 120th anniversary this month. 

The Brigade, a youth development organization for 5th-12th graders, was officially founded on January 22, 1900. Originally starting out as a boys-only program, the Brigade opened to girls in 1979.

“The Brigade inspires youth to be ‘My own self, at my very best, all the time’ through programs that encourage leadership and character development,” says Communications Coordinator Erika Lewin. 

The Brigade has over 580 volunteers to assist with programming. From October through April, the Brigade offers the Building Leaders program at their Neenah location. During the summer, the organization hosts camps at Onaway Island, a 6.5 acre island located on the Chain O’ Lakes near Waupaca. In addition to the Building Leaders program, Brigade members can register for hobby clubs to further explore a variety of interests such as karate, ceramics, cooking and welding. 

During the holidays, the Brigade hosted its annual Christmas Giving event, which was founded in 1948. Every year, the program helps disadvantaged families throughout Neenah and Menasha by providing them with clothing and gifts for a memorable holiday. This year the program served nearly 400 families with about 1,000 children. 

Beginning at 8 a.m. on January 2, sign up for summer Camp Onaway is available. There will also be winter camps at Onaway starting in January, including a family winter camp that runs February 7-9. “We strive for our Brigaders to learn the fourfold aspects – physical, mental, social and religious,”  Lewin says. “Throughout the years of being a Brigader, you will dive a little deeper into each topic.”

For more information and to learn how to become a Brigader, please visit  

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