The Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada was one of over 8,000 groups across the country to participate in the 18th annual "Lights On After School" on Thursday to help raise awareness for the need to expand after school programs.

"For every one child that is a part of an after school program," Matt Sampson, Director of Operations for the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada, said. "There are three kids waiting to get in or can't afford to get in."

The Carson City Branch serves more than 2,000 kids, and today, nearly 500 kids showed up to participate in some special activities. They spent time working in groups, trying to build structures and sculptures with various items, and got to watch staff members conduct science experiments, including a 2-liter bottle rocket launch.

Payton Kephert, a 5th grader at Mark Twain Elementary School, is a member of the Boys 7 Girls Club of Western Nevada. He said if he wasn't here he'd probably be watching television, and said that when he's at the facility, he never gets bored.

"I like the boys and girls club because it gives us a place to stay after school," Kephert said. "And we also get to play with our friends here."

Sampson said that after school programs are just as important to kids as school. He stressed the need for parents to have a resource for their kids, because many parents are at work for hours once school lets out.

"If we didn't have after school programs," Sampson said. "We would have unsupervised children out, getting themselves into trouble making unhealthy choices, and lacking the motivation and the mentorship they need."

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong and Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell both attended the event today to show their support for after school programs. Crowell said he loves visiting the Boys & Girls Club because of the impact he sees on the lives of kids.

"Every time I come out here, I just get a good feeling in my heart," Crowell said. "I get a feeling that kids are on the road to making good choices, I get a feeling that there's hope for these young kids."

Sampson said if you'd like to support after school programs, the easiest thing to do is to call your elected officials and voice your support.

Sampson also said they're always looking for volunteers, so if you'd like to be a mentor or volunteer visit the Boys & Girls Club website here: