By Lindsay Carey
A YMCA worker made a huge difference in the life of a struggling Southington woman 42 years ago and now she is paying it back by donating $5,000 to the Southington YMCA’s Camp Sloper.
After suddenly losing her brother to cancer in 1972, Carmel Avitabile and her elderly mother were left to care for her brother’s five children.
“I took responsibility and sole guardianship of the children, as their mother had let them several year’s prior,” said Avitabile, in a release. “With limited funds and little support, I did not know what I was going to do.”
One day, Avitabile received an unexpected visit to her home on George Street. A YMCA staff member had heard about her story and offered Avitabile some help in her time of need. The staff member, who the YMCA has been unable to identify, told Avitabile that they wanted to send her kids to Camp Sloper every year until they were too old to go.
“The YMCA never charged me a penny and they sent all five of those kids to camp every summer,” said Avitabile, in the release. “We could have never survived without their help. It has been forever in my heart through the years to remember those who have and continue to give to those in need.”
Avitabile contacted Mark Pooler, Camp Sloper director, for a tour of the camp and an opportunity to share her story, along with the donation.
“Its amazing that 42 years later, she was still thinking about it and even more than that she’s giving back,” said Pooler. “It feels very validating that people really do appreciate the work that has been done by the camp and the YMCA. It’s great to know there are people out there with the foresight to find a need and help out. Some staff member in 1972 had the foresight to do that and that’s heartwarming.”
Avitabile’s donation will be used to support the camp’s scholarship fund. Sloper gives out about 100 scholarships a year, totaling between $40 and $50,000 annually.
Pooler said he is grateful to Avitabile and everyone else that donates to families in need, so that more children can attend the camp. Sloper saw 3,000 campers this summer.