EAST HANOVER, NJ — Christos Kambolis has spent more than half the summers of his life at the West Essex YMCA’s Pioneer Trails Day Camp. When he aged out as a camper, Kambolis participated two summers in the Counselor in Training Leadership Development Program. He volunteered last year, not missing a single day of camp in seven weeks.

This year, the 17-year-old West Orange resident was honored as West Essex YMCA’s 2018 Youth of the Year at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ annual awards dinner held last week at Hanover Manor. 

“Everyone who comes into contact with Christos notices his genuine warmth and care for others, his friendly smile, firm handshake and offer to help with whatever you are doing,” said Joanne Browne, associate executive director for the  West Essex Y, one of seven Metro YMCA branches. “If Pioneer Trails had a greeter, Christos would be perfect for the job.”

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Kambolis said Pioneer Trails is like a second home in summer. He looked up to the counselors who guided him for years, and he’s following their example.

“I am able to help out the younger kids the way I was helped out,” he said.

Kambolis uses his artistic and musical talents at camp by helping campers with their art projects and giving a piano performance at the talent show. (Kambolis has been taking lessons since age 7.)

He also flexes his athleticism and smarts. At the Camp Olympics and Science Olympiad, “Christos’ enthusiasm was contagious," according to Browne. 

"Everybody wanted him on their team,” she said.

Beyond camp, Kambolis has volunteered at the West Essex YMCA’s annual Healthy Kids Day event, which will be held again later this month.

The West Orange High School sophomore plays on the junior varsity lacrosse team. After high school, the honor roll student said he might pursue either a career in art — he especially likes drawing — or genetics — an interest sparked by in his freshman biology class. 

Kambolis lives with parents and sister, a Pioneers Trail counselor in training, and has a cat named Georgie.