OGDEN -- The most fascinating thing to Robb Hall about Youth Impact is the fact that he never intended for, had a game plan or imagined today's program.
It was almost as if there was a need and the cause presented itself, said Hall, the organization's executive director.
The program, which started with fewer than a dozen young people brought together by their participation in the Ulster Project, now serves more than 200 youths. The Ulster project was designed to bring Irish teens of Catholic and Protestant faiths together in the United States. Hall was a counselor for the project.
"When the Irish teens returned home, and the American host kids wanted to stay as a group, we met at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church on Mondays for pizza and socialization," Hall said. "Kids from the inner city would walk by, see the pizza, see the SWAT team or K-9 units doing their thing and wanted to be included. We invited them in, they stuck around and never left."
The kids persuaded Hall to continue through the school year, so he did. Numbers grew, support for the weekly gatherings grew and, Hall said, "Here we are today."
In 1992 the group was renamed Youth Impact. Today, the program consists of daily transportation from 20 to 25 schools.
Upon arrival, kids are given a snack and may participate in a variety of programs, including arts and crafts, hobbies, recreational sports, study time and daily mentoring from staff members. After dinner, the kids are given a ride home right to their front doorstep.
"I love Youth Impact," said 17-year-old Kassydi Jensen. "I've been in the program for nine years. In fact, when I met Robb, I was actually too young to be in the program, but I told him I thought it would be really cool, so he said to come in anyway."
Jensen said Hall has been a great mentor to her and has taught her about respect.
"He is a very respectable person, and he tries really hard to make sure every kid has what they need," she said.
Hall was born in Hindsdale, Ill., and raised in Ogden. Although he is 46 years old, he claims to be 26 mentally. He and his wife, Nicole, have five children, and while they don't have any pets of their own, Hall said, they play host and day care to her mother's dog and their daughter's pooch on a very regular basis.
"We have a doggie door in our TV room leading to the backyard and the dog dishes are always full," he said.
Hall is a diehard Broncos fan who never misses a game.
He also said he spends way too much time with family and friends playing the competitive and exciting game of cornhole.
"Never played? Look it up on the Internet and give it a toss," he said.
Last week, Hall was presented with the Child Advocate of the Year award by Prevent Child Abuse Utah.
"The child advocate award is special to me. I received a similar award from the Child Abuse Prevention Center 17 years ago," Hall said. "I am not one for the limelight, but it is always nice, for all of us, to be recognized for what we love to do and how we go about our business."
Hope Bernal, 13, has been attending Youth Impact for nearly five years.
"It means a lot to me and to the other kids," she said. "Robb has helped me in my life. He always comes and talks to me and lifts me up. He makes me feel happy. Youth Impact is like a home to me."
Duncan Martinez, 16, said he attended for six years because of Hall's positive attitude and passion for what he does.
"He is a really caring guy," said Marcus Campbell, 17. "Every participant here is like his own kid and I think that is so awesome."
Hall said the nonprofit organization has done as much for the lives of the staff members and supporters as it has done for the kids.
"We act as one, big, happy, dysfunctional family. No donation, in-kind gift or volunteered time is taken for granted. In the words of Edmund Burke, 'No man makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.' "