Fourteen-year-old Amber Christy embraced the chance to volunteer with a program created last year by the Sussex County YMCA’s competitive swim team to help young swimmers develop their skills.

Christy, who joined the YMCA’s Swordfish swim team six years ago, attended every practice, three times a week, helping children ages 6 to 9 improve at strokes, turns and starts. “This young lady went above and beyond what we have required volunteers to do,” said YMCA Competitive Aquatics Director Ray Gaffney. Volunteers were expected to help out once a week, he said.

The Hamburg teenager was named the Sussex County YMCA’s 2018 Youth of the Year at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ annual dinner on April 11. The Sussex County YMCA is one of seven branches of the Metro YMCA.

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“I love what I’m doing,” said Christy, who aspires to become a pediatric nurse. 

An eighth grader at Sussex County Charter School for Technology, Christy said she initially volunteered for the Swordfish Sidekicks program to earn community service hours for a National Junior Honor Society requirement, but continued to help “because I found that I loved working with the kids.”

As a youngster, she tried her hand at several team sports, but none held her interest, she said. When Christy started swimming at age 8, she had found her passion. Two years in a row, she has been recognized as most improved swimmer among the girls on the Swordfish team, she said.

Outside the pool, she enjoys reading, painting, drawing, skiing and listening to music. She regular makes her school’s honor roll. Christy lives with her parents and three younger brothers. (Getting some time away from her siblings was an added incentive for volunteering with the Swordfish Sidekicks, she noted.)





Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges invests in its diverse communities to promote wellness, safety and quality of life for children, adults and seniors. Its seven branches in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hackensack, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility through an array of programs. Some 35,000 people belong to the Metro Y, which awards more than $2.8 million annually in direct and indirect financial assistance.