VERONA, NJ — Following a rehab center stay for a fractured hip, 94-year-old Carrie Jean Pagley began a specialized physical activity regimen in her Verona home, provided by the West Essex YMCA.

Cardiac nurse Valerie Beck, the Health and Wellness coordinator at the West Essex YMCA, visited Pagley twice a week for many months in 2015.

“She liked Val and looked forward to her visits because she was so upbeat,” SAID Pagley’s daughter, Marlene Waldock. “It wasn’t just the exercise, it was the socialization; they’d walk up and down the halls talking and laughing.”

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When Pagley died in January 2016 after a brief illness, Waldock asked friends and family to consider donating to Healthy Aging at Home in lieu of sending flowers. Ultimately, $1,500 was contributed to the program, which serves 40-to-50 seniors a year. Waldock then began helping to fund Healthy Aging at Home through her annual gifts to the West Essex YMCA 

“I wanted to make sure it continued for other people,” said Waldock, owner of 1st Impression Communications LLC in Verona. 

Waldock became one of the first West Essex YMCA Program Champions, alongside the Kiwanis Club of Livingston and Regal Bank. Program Champions make a minimum three-year financial commitment to support a YMCA program near-and-dear to their heart, according to West Essex YMCA Executive Director Helen Flores.

“Program Champion donors help us promote the mission of the Y,” said Flores. “Their support allows us to provide programs that have a big impact, and the three-year commitment helps ensure program sustainability.”

The Kiwanis Club of Livingston has been partnering with the West Essex YMCA for decades. When Flores asked the Kiwanis Club to become the Program Champion for the Piranhas Special Olympics swim team, that was "all it took,” according to Michael Pollack, club secretary since 2009.

The Piranhas team is free to the 25-to-30 teenagers who participate each season, which runs from early March through the end of June. The YMCA also allows swimmers and their families access to the exercise equipment, gymnasium and pool during the season.

Supporting the Piranhas “is a perfect fit for the Kiwanis because it fits with their mission of taking care of children with special needs,” Flores said.

“The YMCA has been a tremendous partner,” said Pollock, who served five years on the YMCA’s board of managers and noted the YMCA routinely provides volunteers for Kiwanis events.

Regal Bank, headquartered in Livingston, helps fund YMCA scholarships that allow financially struggling families to enroll in summer camp, childcare services and after-school care. According to Flores, Regal Bank "has a real heart for social responsibility."

“Livingston and the surrounding communities are very important to us,” said Monte Ehrenkranz, Regal Bank vice president for business development. “The YMCA is a great place for kids, and we’re happy to help those who can’t afford camp and other programs. We donate money and allow the Y to do as they see fit with it. We know they’re doing the right thing.”

Several other branches of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges also have Program Champions.

According to Metropolitan YMCA Chief Development Officer Lisa Kelly, the Program Champions initiative allows individuals, businesses and organizations to support programs that resonate with them and have long-term benefits for the community.

For more information about becoming a Program Champion, the YMCA invites community members to contact Kelly at lkelly@metroymcas.org or 973-758-9622.