SOUTHINGTON - Not so long ago, in a town not so far away, local heroes were honored by the YMCA.
Guests to the YMCA’s Star Wars-themed 89th annual meeting, “May The Y Be With You” entered into the Aqua Turf Club’s banquet hall under lightsabers raised by Y staff in costume as Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and Princess Leia. Community leaders, Y members, and supporters then took their seats for a night of camaraderie and celebration as the Y recognized the recipients of their community awards.
“It’s always great to get the community together in celebration and recognition and for some good old-fashioned live fun,” said John Myers, executive director of the YMCA.
Dan Daigle, president of the YMCA’s Board of Directors, noted that in 2017 the local Y “reached more people than ever” of all ages and backgrounds with its programs. He also paid tribute to Myers, reminding the guests that Myers had announced his retirement at the end of this year. Myers had been with the Y for 33 years, including 19 with the local Y.
“When he (John Myers) first arrived, we had a budget just shy of $1 million,” said Daigle. “Today our budget is just short of $11 million. We have grown tremendously and the number of people who he has helped along the way is countless. We wish you the best of luck in your retirement.”
Mike DeFeo was later honored as the YMCA’s Person of the Year. He was recognized for his “behind the scenes” work with the Southington Parks and Recreation Department and for spearheading the fundraising efforts to keep middle school sports alive. The sports programs had been cut from the budget due to state aid shortfalls.
Southington High School seniors Naomi Cipriano and Julia Brilla received the Youth Leadership Award. The two were praised not only for their academics, but also for their involvement in school clubs and volunteering at community events.
Cipriano also sang the National Anthem and provided an opening thought at the start of the evening’s program. She noted that she joined the Y in fourth grade and that she had grown under the guidance of Myers and Y staff, volunteering at events such as the Y’s Apple Harvest Festival Road Race, 3 on 3 basketball tournament and “Race 4 Chase.” She is now a referee for middle school basketball under DeFeo and a teen staff member at Camp Sloper.
“Once the Y is with you, it stays with you,” she said. “Thank you, John, for your years of dedication to the Y and everyone that stepped through its doors.”
Brilla later provided closing thoughts after press deadline to conclude the event.
The Youth Development Award was presented to the Southington Cyberknights robotics team, who provided a demonstration of a robot they built between competitions. People could try on a special belt and as long as they faced the robot it would follow them at a distance, explained Team Captain Jake Hayes.
“This was a way for us to work on our vision system,” he said.
The Healthy Living Award was given to the Southington Chamber Health and Wellness Committee for posting online tips for staying healthy and starting a weekly walking initiative.
The Social Responsibility Award went to the DePaolo Family Foundation for its numerous charitable donations in the community.
Hartford HealthCare was the premiere sponsor of this event.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.