By SHERIDAN CYR
On Thursday, April 5, the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA welcomed more than 100 guests to their 2018 annual support campaign kickoff breakfast to share fond memories and touching stories about the impact the YMCA has had on the community over the years.
The theme of this year’s campaign, “This Is Y—Opportunities for All,” represents the openness the YMCA offers.
“All are welcome to participate in programs and receive services regardless of ability to pay,” said YMCA board of directors president Dan Daigle. “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 serious challenges; welcome and embrace newcomers and foster a nationwide service ethic.”
The breakfast event centered on sharing stories of the YMCA’s impact, with a goal of inspiring the room to give back to the local charity and support their activities and functions by making a financial contribution.
“I think at the end of this morning’s breakfast, you’ll truly understand ‘This is Y,’” Daigle said.
Paula Knight, the chair of this year’s annual campaign, said that that every dollar donated to the campaign goes directly to giving a YMCA experience to those who can’t afford it.
“Money raised through the campaign does not buy new treadmills, or pay for electricity, or purchase chlorine for the pool,” she said. “Program and membership fees pay for those type of operational expenses.”
Some of the programs that the campaign supports include camp scholarships, childcare, membership assistance, Race4Chase Kids Triathlon, LIVESTRONG, the “Y in the Afternoon” outreach program and more. The fundraising goal for 2018 is $350,000.
According to Knight, there are 1,153 unemployed residents in Southington, an increase from last year. The town averages 148 infants and children participate in the state WIC program. Nearly 2,000 residents participate in the SNAP food stamps program, and 29 percent of households live below the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) threshold.
“That’s where we come in,” Knight said. “Nobody will be turned away from our YMCA because of their inability to pay. We provide financial assistance, which is not a handout, but a helping hand.”
Knight then introduced executive director John Myers, who will be retiring this year after nearly 31 years of service to the YMCA, and 19 years as executive director.
“John has put his heart, soul, and entire body into fundraising for the YMCA,” said Knight. “He’s raised millions of dollars, and has personally donated a significant amount of time, talent and treasure to help better the community in which he has lived and raised his children.”
Knight said that Myers was instrumental in several programs at the local YMCA, including Forever in Blue Jeans—which has continued for 15 years—and the Sloper Plunge, which recently celebrated its 13th year. He also ran two capital campaigns: the first in 2001 which raised over $2 million, and a second in 2012 which raised over $3 million.
“These are only a few of the many ways that John has helped to raise money so the YMCA can play an integral role in the betterment of this community,” Knight said.
Myers thanked his colleagues and supporters for their comments before giving closing remarks.
“We would be so gracious if each and every one of you in this room today consider making a financial contribution,” he said. “All contributions count and help us to transform lives.”