Denzel Washington spoke at the Boys & Girls Club of America’s National Conference in Chicago on Friday, according to Fox 32 Chicago. After addressing members and staff with powerful words, the actor joined them in a singalong of “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. The organization posted a touching video of the moment on Facebook, which shows the actor and members snap and clap as they sing in unison.
Washington gave a speech on his gratitude for the Boys & Girls Clubs staff members who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support the unprecedented needs of the community.
“All of you have proven that you need and deserve to be at the table when the issues facing our children must be addressed,” Washington said in his speech, Forbes reports. “Because when essential workers needed essential services for their children, you stepped up to provide those services.”
At the beginning of the video, a young girl stands beside Washington as she starts singing the song. The 67-year-old smiles warmly as the rest of the youth and staff join in. He cracks a joke, noting that some of the children were showing off their vocal talent. The camera pans and captures the joy in the room, with many recording the moment on their own phones.
Washington’s relationship with the Boys & Girls Club spans decades. He told CBS News back in 2018 that he’s “been a member since I was 5,” and worked at the organization as a “counselor: a day camp counselor, a sleep-away camp counselor.” He’s been a national spokesperson for more than 25 years, and it’s a relationship he said he’s extremely proud of.
“I was heading in the wrong direction [as a teenager], when you’re starting to get out there and be tempted by more adult things; but the very lessons I learned in the club I think helped to keep me from going too far,” the actor told Forbes. “I knew right from wrong; and that’s something you’re taught. It’s cliche to say, but it’s true, you’re really taught that in the club, right from wrong, and to be honest, and those kinds of lessons.”
“It’s made me happier because it’s something I can talk about from the heart and it’s something I mean,” he told CBS News in 2018. “I can share the experiences I’ve had growing up in the club.”