SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Area YMCA 125th Anniversary Party, held at Summer Camp on Friday July 29, is one birthday that everyone can celebrate. When the celebration kicked off at the Watchung Reservation at 12:00 pm, campers, counselors, and administrators alike were in full party mode as they ate a barbeque lunch, had some cake, and danced to favorites like the “Cupid Shuffle.”
The 200 children in the day camp, which is the largest camp offered by the YMCA, started out their party by doing a scavenger hunt in 12.5 minutes for 125 items, commemorating the 125th anniversary. On the list were items such as pokemon cards, spider-man backpacks, and dogs.
As the day went on, the kids danced with their counselors in their matching tie-dye t-shirts and got a chance to dunk their counselors in a dunk tank, as well as play in a jumping castle.
Julie Kinloch, Camp Program Director, said that in the three years that she has been a part of the YMCA Summer Camp this is the largest party yet.
The party was held as part of the "YMCA 125 Years…Our Story and Yours Campaign."
Darrell Johnson, President and CEO of the Summit Area YMCA, said that one story that sticks out to him is when a two-year old girl named Maria came to the Y not being able to speak any English. By the time she was five, she had learned it so well that she was mentoring three-year-olds and teaching them English.
Patty Facchinei, Summit Area YMCA Financial Advisor, said that her son’s story began when he was being coached for football at the Y back in middle school. “Now, my son coaches the Summit 7th grade Football, and it’s pretty amazing that he is following in his mentor’s footsteps,” she said.
In working as a financial advisor, Facchinei helps to make the Y and its affiliated camps affordable for all families, since the Y has a strict open-door policy. She said, “I love it when people come back to me telling me that I changed their lives by making it more affordable for them to go to the Y. People give me thank-you cards and kiss my hands.”
Kinloch said that this open door policy is what makes the Y so special. “Through the Strong Kids Campaign, no one is denied,” she said. “We cater to families because we want them to be here.”
For the yearlong campaign, the YMCA is trying to focus more on youth development programs. Their goal is to raise an additional 2 million dollars added to their current $5.2 million so that they can create more funds for their Endowment Campaign, which has been going on for several years. They also wish to add on to their Learning Center for infants, since there is currently a waiting list. The YMCA also wants to be able to give an additional $500,000 out in scholarships.
Amanda Heckmann, who is eight-years-old and has been a part of the Y for three years, said, “I don’t believe the Y is 125 years old!”
Johnson said that the fact the Y is now 125 not only makes him proud but he feels the whole community should be very proud as well since it was the members of the community who were able to keep the Y thriving for this long.
In New Jersey, there are about 40 YMCAs, but there are only three or four that are older than the Summit Area Y.
“The YMCA has the ability to adapt to each community,” he said. “Since they have responded to each individual need on a community-by-community basis, they have been able to last this long.”
In addition to the Summer Camp 125th Anniversary Party, the Summit Area YMCA also plans on holding a community picnic on September 24th and a 5k road race in October.
As a grand finale for the campaign, the YMCA plans on holding an Anniversary Gala event on November 5th with 300 expected guests. There will be an online auction before the event and a live auction during the gala.
“The YMCA is one of the largest social services in the country, and there are lots of different ways to help with families, children, and the elderly. It allows people to leave the world a better place than they found it,” said Johnson.
Heckmann said, “I love, love, love the Y!”
And for good reason: the YMCA has been one of the leading non-profit organizations in the Summit area since its introduction to the community in 1886.