By SHERIDAN CYR
Darth Vader stood stoically while a Jedi paced the main lobby at the Southington YMCA. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the Star Wars rivals joined Princess Leah and a Sith to greet visitors to the YMCA press conference.
It was all explained as YMCA leaders announced the true purpose of the gathering, to announce the recipients of the YMCA’s community award winners and tease the upcoming annual meeting theme, “May the ‘Y’ Be With You.” Mike DeFeo, the CyberKnights, the chamber of commerce, the DePaolo family, Naomi Ciprano, and Julia Brilla will each be honored at the annual meeting for their dedication and desire to helping others around them and to improving the Southington community.
“These award recipients are really the spores of our community wheel,” said YMCA board of directors president Dan Daigle.
Executive director John Myers announced each award recipient.
The person of the year award will be presented to DeFeo, who wears many hats in town. He serves on the Parks and Recreation Board and does a lot of work with youth sports, including a significant role in the Middle School Sports Program, allowing students to continue to play sports through the school even though the program was recently cut from the education budget.
“You are a shining example of what it means to give back to and taking care of our own,” said Myers.
Ciprano and Brilla will be honored in the category of youth leadership.
“If you saw their resumes, you would be overly impressed,” said Myers. “We hope you stay in Southington, but we know that wherever you end up, that community will be enriched.”
Cipriano said it felt great to be this year’s award winner. “I never thought my involvement with the YMCA would lead me here,” she said. “My time at the YMCA has taught me so many skills, such as teamwork and leadership.”
She added that the award would benefit her transcript as she starts preparing to go to college.
The Southington CyberKnights, the national award-winning Southington High School robotics program, consists of more than 50 students each year. The group will receive the youth development award. The CyberKnights compete nationally with other robotics teams. Last year, they won at the state level, regional level, and were recognized worldwide.
The DePaolo Family Foundation will be honored with the social responsibility award. Myers thanked the organization for their work in the community, and he said they would make their family proud.
The Health and Wellness Committee of the Southington Chamber of Commerce will receive with the healthy living award.
“It’s good to know that we have a group in town willing to change the way the statistics are headed,” said Myers. The chamber group surveys the community and provides personalized assistance and information to the
community, with tactics such as walking meetings, and weekly videos with new topics of health posted online.
Chamber representatives Taylor Crofton and Melanie Fensick reported that they were excited to have been recognized. “This tells us that the community has a need for this and wants to get involved,” said Crofton.
Fensick said she was “humbled by this award. It’s not something we were aiming for.” She hopes to continue to spread the energy and encourage wellness and healthy living.
“It’s really heartwarming to recognize all of the work that these individuals do,” said marketing director Brittany Tripp. She said there were many worthy candidates this year, but ultimately the YMCA was proud of the selected award recipients.
The awards will be presented during the 89th annual gathering on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with the dinner at 6:15 p.m. The award presentations will follow. Cost is $50 per person, and tickets are available through Feb. 1.