The Hockomock Area YMCA’s Annual Reach Out For Youth and Families Campaign Kick-off Breakfast flourished Thursday morning at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield.
Over 400 area business and community leaders came to show their appreciation, eat a big buffet breakfast and kicked off the 2012 Campaign.
The event featured speakers of every walk of life, from YMCA personnel to contributors and beneficiaries of past programs.
“This breakfast was my first introduction [to the YMCA outreach program],” chairman of the Hockomock Area YMCA Board of Directors Greg Spier. “Eighteen years ago… I was dressed in my blue jeans and construction cloths and I was a little overwhelmed. That was when there was about 200 people, and now we’re over 400. It was the first time I was able to witness the power of the Y, and I look forward to this event every year.”
Last year, the Reach Out for Youth and Families Campaign raised over $1.4 million, and asked donors to participate this year even more. State Rep. and former Chairman of the Hockomock Area YMCA Board Jay Barrows said that the contributions are not just a charitable action, but also an investment in the children and families in the community.
“We hear everyday of families in need and I know that at least I have in my back pocket an opportunity to share what the Y can do for those families and those children who need help,” he said. “Whether it’s through sickness, loss of a job, divorce, family breakup; the Y has always been there. It’s really really awesome.”
The campaign helps people in all walks of life in many different situations for those in need. Barrows went on to say that 100 percent of all donations from the event will be given to the program, which is uncommon in many charities.
Boys and Girls Club of Boston Nicholas President and CEO Josh Kraft also spoke at the event. He said that since he was raised and educated in a privileged fashion, he felt that he should give back to those less fortunate and help those around him, and the YMCA campaign was a great way to do so.
“One of the crucial elements that make YMCAs or Boys and Girls Clubs so successful is volunteerism,” he said. “I know at the Hockomock Area Y, you’re led by a couple of great volunteer leaders…. Over the past year, there’s been 22,528 hours of volunteer service given back to the Hockomock Y, which is a value of just under half a million dollars. [It] is extraordinary, the volunteer effort to make these communities better.”
Kraft went on to say that his experience in outreach programs like the YMCA campaign and the Boys and Girls Club of Boston really woke him up to the reality of some peoples’ lives.
“I do like to share with people,” Kraft said. “In the fall of 1990, I got hired to run an outreach program for, for lack of a better word at-risk youths in South Boston and Dorchester… kids who were having problems in school, having problems with the law. It was middle school kids. Really that was the greatest educational experience of my life, because in those first two weeks I saw things I had only heard about or read about in the paper. But I also at the same time learned another valuable lesson, and that was the value of relationships and how community institutions like the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA. Their doors were always open for any kid or any family.”
Deutsche Bank Championship Director Eric Baldwin spoke about the commitment the DBC has with area outreach programs and how the stories of outreach beneficiaries affected him.
“Each year, I’m so impressed with these stories and this year is no different,” he said. “There’s true power in each voice we heard today… It makes me think of my family and my son and daughter.”
Paul Lenahan, the chairman for the reach out for youth and families campaign, related a story of Max Currens. Currens performed Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's heart-warming version of Over the Rainbow; a song that also happens to be his mother's favorite. Currens is a 13-year-old Mansfield resident, and his mother, Molly, is a participant in the Live Strong Initiative. Live Strong is a program for cancer survivors supported by the outreach campaign and has served 263 cancer survivors and their families.
When his mother was going through treatment, he would sing songs and play for her.
“We are so happy that he and mom are here this morning,” Lenahan said.
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