SOUTHINGTON - Town leaders, local business owners and the heads of local non-profits joined the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA for its Campaign Kickoff Breakfast Thursday as they shared stories about how donations make a real difference in the lives of community members.
YMCA leaders announced that they hope to raise $350,000 this year to help provide YMCA programs and services to those who would otherwise be unable to afford them. The stated theme of this year’s campaign is “This is Y - Opportunities For All.” A stand-up “thermometer” will be placed in the lobby of the Y at 29 High St. to how how close they are to meeting their fundraising goal.
Dan Daigle, chairman of the Y’s Board of Directors, then discussed the program that will benefit from donations. They include childcare, the Livestrong program for cancer survivors, the Race4Chase Triathlon held at Camp Sloper, the day camp itself and more.
“Our programs, services and initiatives enable kids to realize their potential; prepare teens for college and beyond; offer ways for families to have fun together; empower people to be healthier in spirit mind and body during good times, as well as through unemployment or other serious challenges,” said Daigle.
Annual Support Campaign Chair Paula Knight then honored the achievements of John Myers, the executive director, who she said has raised millions of dollars for the Y during his tenure. He plans to retire at the end of the year.
Knight then spoke of the increased need for support in the local community.
“Did you know that the number of unemployed individuals in Southington has increases since last year?” she asked. “1,153 of our residents are currently unemployed. In our town, an average of 148 infants and children participate in the state WIC program. Nearly 2,000 of our residents participate in the SNAP program. 29 percent of our households are below the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) threshold. This means that 29 percent of our working households struggle to meet basic needs.”
Knight then shared the stories of four people who had benefitted personally from Y programs. After showing a video where they tell their stories, these individuals were invited to stand and be applauded.
First up was Leo, a young boy who is being raised by his grandmother who had to come out of retirement to support him. He receives financial assistance to attend the Y’s preschool program and according to the video is “excelling” there. He happily said that he had made eight friends while there.
Another video told the story of Shawn, known at the Y as “Big Shawn”, who mentors younger children in the Afternoon Outreach program and plays board games and kickball with them. Knight referred to him as “the light of the future.”
The third video told the story of Jaiden, a young boy who attended YMCA Camp Sloper and then with his mother’s help donated $100 to this year’s Sloper Plunge so “kids can get to camp instead of sitting at home having nothing to do and bored.”
Finally, the Y shared the story of Colleen Riopelle, who was working out with her friend Linda when Linda noticed her looking disoriented and dropping her phone. Upon checking in on her, Linda saw part of her face was drooping and urged her to go to the hospital. She was rushed to Bradley where she had a stroke and she then suffered two more strokes overnight at Hartford Hospital.
“A normal gym wouldn’t have cared, they would have let me drive home,” said Riopelle, who was in tears as she stood at the podium with her family. “If I wasn’t part of the Y I would have probably got in my car and not made it home.”
Myers then closed out the meeting by urging people to donate and help the Y keep offering these types of programs.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.